• Palestine: The Palestinian city of Bethlehem fills up and 'restores' at Christmas

  • Palestine: 'Christmas in Bethlehem is authentic'

The office of Palestinian President Abu Mazen in the Mukata in Ramallah and

the semi-desert alleys leading to the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem

share a feeling of sadness and disappointment.

In the first case, the chain of agreements between Israel and several Arab countries - under the patronage of the US President, Donald Trump - has put an end to the usual prominence of the Palestinian cause on the international agenda.

In the cradle of Christianity, for its part,

the coronavirus has prevented the massive arrival of tourists on a different Christmas.

The masks have replaced the cameras of the visitors that portrayed the moment in the place where the Christian tradition places the birth of Jesus.

The hotels of Bethlehem await better times remembering those, not too distant,

in which they had to excuse themselves for not having more rooms


Without customers, they try to survive and make it to next Christmas and even, if there are no more sprouts, to Easter.

"Last year at this time we were able to enjoy the presence of tens of thousands of tourists, but the virus restrictions have left the figure at zero. It

is a very sad Christmas

," the Palestinian Isa lamented in Manger Square before passing the Christmas Eve with a small family

like the rest of the small Christian community in the area


A few kilometers from Jerusalem, Bethlehem no longer subsists on agriculture as in its origins, but on tourism.

Covid-19 has wreaked more havoc in this sector than any escalation of Palestinian-Israeli violence.

The pandemic has drawn down the blinds of the souvenir shops that

last year opened to more than 100,000 tourists and pilgrims

during the Christmas holidays.

Today the only figures that count are those of deaths (more than 1,000) and infections (more than 100,000) by the virus since March in the territories of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).

The situation is worrying in Nablus and Kalkilia

and especially in the Gaza Strip, where the number of deaths is around 300, including 200 in the last month alone.

The Islamist group Hamas, which rules in this Palestinian enclave, has vetoed the participation of Muslims in the Christmas holidays,

which has provoked protests from Christians and the PNA.

In the Palestinian Government they lament the lack of discipline of their citizens in the face of the restrictions while many of them wonder what happens with

the vaccines bought from Russia

and see how the Israelis began vaccination (Pfizer) last Saturday before entering this Sunday in their third confinement.

Midnight mass

The Mass of the Rooster in the Church of Santa Catalina had only the presence of the priests and the cameras that broadcast it.

The coronavirus also broke the tradition of receiving the Palestinian president

but not spreading the Bethlehem mass to the whole world.

Precisely in this small village Abu Mazen met with Trump in May 2017 without imagining that a few months later he would announce the transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem, which led him to cut the bridges with his Administration.

After stating that the "fundamental problem of the Palestinians is with the occupation and with the settlements," the


dismissed him with a phrase in English: "He will go down in history,

President Donald Trump will be the American president who achieves peace among Israelis and Palestinians

. "

But the so-called "Deal of the Century" promoted by Trump

did not lead to Abu Mazen's wish but to his nightmare

: Israel's agreements with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco broke the principle according to which the Arab countries they do not normalize their relations with Israel

until the creation of a Palestinian state is agreed on the borders of '67


Peace plan

Annus Horribilis

is insufficient to sum up the year of Abu Mazen that began with the announcement of the "pro-


" US peace plan and

ended with agreements between Israel and four Arab countries that reflected the distancing of Arab and Muslim leaders

, the continuation of the internal fracture. (Hamas-Fatah) that has not managed to close even the common opposition to Trump and the Abraham Accords, the pandemic that has hit the punished coffers of the ANP and has left him unable to leave Ramallah until November, the death of his faithful advisor Saeb Erekat ...

The face of Netanyahu's success - possible thanks to Trump and the diplomatic, economic and military interests of the Arab countries - has its reverse in the failure of Abu Mazen.

This, however,

has returned to smile with the arrival of the vaccine against Trump's mandate

: Joe Biden.

After his victory, Abu Mazen resumed contacts with Israel - especially in security cooperation - waiting for Washington to return the Palestinian cause to the center of its policy in the Middle East.


The Palestinians celebrated Trump's defeat more

than Biden's victory, seeing the Deal of the Century as an existential threat to their cause," says Palestinian analyst Mohamed Najib. What expectations does Biden's Palestinian leadership have? great internal priorities and other more urgent external ones such as Iran but they await the resumption of dialogue and economic assistance and

the reopening of their office in Washington and the US Consulate in East Jerusalem

, "he answered EL MUNDO.

The US diplomatic train that left its station in August will not back down.

Trump's final days in office and Netanyahu's umpteenth election campaign may accelerate another announcement of relations between an Arab country and Israel.

Biden will not stop this path but will try to incorporate the Palestinian leadership and reactivate the two-state solution


Isolated in Ramallah for technical (Covid-19) and geostrategic reasons (Abraham Accords), Abu Mazen changes tactics in the face of the normalization process.

"After the announcement by the UAE and Bahrain,

Abu Mazen reacted harshly and sentimentally and spoke of treason but since Biden's election, he has moderated his reaction

and even returned the ambassadors in Abu Dhabi and Manama that he had withdrawn in protest," he says. Najib, which reveals rapprochement efforts between Abu Mazen and the UAE.

Meanwhile, the Holy Land celebrates the feast of joyless joy praying that the pandemic will go away forever.

"We would have liked to celebrate this Christmas in a different way and for Bethlehem to resound with joy in its streets

as always at this time of year,

" says the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who this Thursday completed the traditional pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Nativity without pilgrims.

According to the criteria of The Trust Project

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