Daily Archives: February 7, 2009

Gideon Rachman

I am in Israel this evening. Election posters are everywhere and there is lots of excitement ahead of the vote on Tuesday. But visiting Hebron market on the West Bank this afternoon, I didn’t find any Palestinians who seemed to think the result would make much difference to them.

Even though the Palestinians are studiously indifferent to the Israeli elections, their own politics are on the move. Hamas have always been strong in Hebron – and the general opinion seemed to be that the war in Gaza had strengthened support for them in the West Bank as well. One woman trader I spoke to didn’t seem too happy about it. “If Hamas take power in the West Bank”, she said, “it will be very bad for women. They will make me close my stall down.”

I’ve never seen anywhere on the West Bank where Israeli settlers and Palestinians live so close together as in Hebron. The town is now effectively divided by check-points, walls and metal gates – all policed by a very heavy Israeli military presence. The Israeli side seemed comatose this afternoon, a combination of the fact that it was the Sabbath and that there are only 400 settlers, guarded by hundreds more troops. I saw one extravagantly bearded man out for a stroll with his family – a charming scene, apart from the fact that he had a machine-gun strapped across his chest.