'This is the first thing Abbas has done right'

View from the West Bank
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The Independent Online

For the first half of the Mr Abbas's speech last night, Mohammed Hammad, a barber, continued to cut hair while chatting about his customer's neck operation.

But the haircut over, he gave it his full attention.

The Palestinian President's decision to take the struggle for statehood to the UN was a "good move". "It is the first thing he has done correctly. The world will know we have a cause," he said. And after watching Mr Abbas's speech on a television tuned to Palestinian TV in his busy barber's shop, he pronounced it "mumtaz". Excellent.

As he cut hair with the TV showing a celebratory rally a mile away in Nablus Yasser Arafat Square, Mr Hammad had mused before the speech, Mr Abbas was at least doing something new.

"For 20 years we've been talking peace, co-existence, tolerance and we've been getting nowhere. It is not even Israel that rules us. It is the settlers. They expand the settlements, they cut down our trees. They attack the mosques. And Netanyahu is one of them."

When the barber heard minutes later a Palestinian had been killed earlier in the village of Qusra during clashes between troops and residents, he exclaimed: "You see, that's what I was saying." And when Mr Abbas stressed the relentless growth of settlements in his speech, Mr Hammad declared: "Yes, he's right." The mood at his shop in, perhaps, Ramallah's poorest place, the Amari refugee camp, had not been over-excited when Mr Abbas began to speak.

One customer was reading a newspaper while an assistant, Oweis Hamdi, 21, was playing a computer game. And there was one dissenting customer. Akram Hammad, 36, the barber's construction worker cousin, said: "One hundred per cent, it's a game." But at the end Mr Hammad led a round of applause with his nephews Mohammed and Ahmed, both 12. Few joined Hamzeh Qatri, 14, in exulting after the speech: "Now I want to throw stones."

But the majority of customers – while harbouring no illusions about what it would achieve in the short term – were notably supportive of the UN move. "I like international recognition of a Palestinian state," said Mahmoud Ganem.

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