Palestinians across the West Bank have been demonstrating this week to show support for statehood. The display comes ahead of a speech Friday by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in which he is expected to demand membership in the United Nations.
With Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in New York, thousands of Palestinians gathered Wednesday in Ramallah and other West Bank cities to show support for Palestinian membership in the United Nations.
Ramallah Governor Laila Ghanam told the crowd it was a historic moment for which the Palestinian people have been waiting for a long and bloody time. The demonstrations were largely peaceful.
But Israeli security forces used tear gas to counter several dozen rock-throwing youths at checkpoints near Hebron and Qalandia, north of Jerusalem.
Israeli leaders say the Palestinian drive for U.N. recognition will hurt peace talks between the two sides. Palestinian leaders hope U.N. recognition, however, will revive the talks and boost their drive for independence.
Some Palestinians, such as butcher Tamer Marmesh in Ramallah, dismiss the drive for U.N. recognition. He said going to the United Nations is nonsense.
"Even if we get recognition, we are under occupation. It is a meaningless venture," he said.
In Jerusalem, Israeli office worker Ziva Gazit agreed, although she said she supports a separate state for the Palestinians.
"I think that a U.N. declaration will result in nothing for the average Palestinian in the cities. Nothing will happen for the moment and they will be very disappointed, I am afraid," she said.
Support among Palestinians for U.N. recognition is generally split along party lines. Fatah, which governs much of the West Bank, backs Abbas.
But Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, opposes the bid for U.N. recognition. Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said it will only further legitimize Israel, which Hamas refuses to recognize.
He said that Abbas's move is an individual step that does not enjoy the support of the majority of the Palestinian people. He said it is a cosmetic move that will bring no real benefit.
On Thursday, hundreds of Palestinians in Ramallah protested the U.N. speech by U.S. President Barack Obama, in which he said a Palestinian state could be established only through direct negotiations.
Israeli news media praised the speech, saying the American president for the first time had shown an understanding of Israel's particular concerns.