One question I've asked myself since coming here is why the West Bank has been so quiet during these twelve days of bloodshed in Gaza. I've been in Ramallah and Bethlehem gauging opinion - although I'm a little frustrated that covering the Gaza story has prevented me roaming further afield in the Occupied Territories, I have been able to form an idea about the complexities of Palestinian politics at this time of turbulence and high emotions.
Talking to Ayman Daraghmeh, one of the few pro-Hamas Legislative Council members who remains at liberty (the others have been jailed) I am surprised that even he does not advocate a Third Intifada in support of Gaza. What would the objective be ? he asked rhetorically. Better not to ask people to suffer in support of some ill defined objective, he adds.
There are though other reasons why the streets seem quiet, oddly so for someone who experienced fierce fighting in both Ramallah and Bethlehem during the early days of the Second Intifada. Some people, like Mustapha Barghouti, an independent who challenged Mahmoud Abbas for the presidency, argue that his former rival has been exercising too tight a grip on the streets for large scale protest to take off.
This is the first lesson to draw from the apparent calm in the West Bank. There may be a good deal of sympathy for Hamas but since that party ejected the Palestinian Authority from Gaza eighteen months ago, the assistance western countries and Israel have given President Abbas to make sure the same did not happen in the West Bank is paying dividends. The president's security forces are by common consent better organised, less corrupt and more effective than they used to be.
The second issue - and one sees it more clearly in Bethlehem than anywhere else - is that economic self interest is guiding some Palestinians in their actions. The town of the Christian nativity depends heavily on tourism for its living. Until Christmas eve Mike Canawati, a Bethlehemi businessman who employs 70 people in shops and restaurants, says it was shaping up to be the best season ever. Thousands of pilgrims passed through his souvenir shop each week, sales were booming. Now, frightened tour operators have scaled back and today's Orthodox Christian celebration will generate only a fraction of the expected income. People in Bethlehem don't want trouble.
Some wonder whether the Palestinian Authority's muzzling of protest might be the product of some schadenfreude at the pummelling of their enemies in Hamas. Some people in Fatah, the party at the core of the PA apparently voice such views in private - but none did in front of our camera. I could detect though, talking to Hamas supporters, some resentment that President Abbas has not done more.
I draw two main lessons from all this. The first is that the wounds within the Palestinian community caused by past fights between Hamas and Fatah could be exacerbated by current events, once the bombs stop falling and the imperative for national solidarity lessens. The second is that the near complete blocking of exports from Gaza has been one of the most disastrous aspects of Israel's anti-Hamas blockade. Much of the employment in Gaza used to depend on trade with Israel. If it still did, more people in Gaza might feel like those in Bethlehem do about the advantages of maintaining tolerable relations with their neighbour.
Here's my film from the West Bank: