Kenneth Chasen
The Los Angeles Times (Opinion)
August 25, 2010 – 12:00am

The short drive from Jerusalem to Ramallah begins as you’d expect. The pristine setting of the old-new holy city slowly morphs into a more disordered vista on the outskirts of town — small Arab villages, humbly built of stone, displaying signs of economic decay. The streets are nearly empty.

Startlingly soon, the Israeli military checkpoint appears at a break in the expanse of the cement separation barrier. Immediately upon crossing, the most frequently photographed stretch of the barrier comes into sight, a lengthy and colorful mural that includes massive painted images of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as a young man and of Marwan Barghouti, who’s in an Israeli prison for his role in the second intifada.

Nothing I’ve seen along the 14-kilometer trip, however, prepares me for what I will find in Ramallah, a place much of the world still imagines as a refugee camp: Streets teeming with auto and pedestrian traffic. Men and women moving quickly and purposefully. Privately owned businesses filled with customers. Beautiful new buildings of stone and glass. Numerous new construction starts. Government offices patrolled by polite, well-trained security personnel. A general atmosphere of busyness and safety.

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-chasen-fayyad-2-20100825,0,…  (Click to read the entire article>)

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