MASHA VILLAGE, West Bank (AP) _ Mohammed Hassa haggled with a customer over the price of a wooden chest. The Palestinian furniture store owner and the Israeli shopper gesticulated, waving hands in the air, before finally agreeing.

Hassa negotiated the deal in Hebrew, something he does every Saturday when the main market of his West Bank village is crowded with Israeli bargain hunters.

Israelis travel to Palestinian areas as easily these days as Londoners might go to Calais, France, to buy cheap liquor.

The market scenes _ a far cry from angry encounters during the 1987-1993 Palestinian uprising _ are a snapshot of a new relationship between the two peoples that is flourishing regardless of the deadlock in peace talks.

Saturdays are the busiest and most profitable working days for Palestinian merchants. Many Israelis use the Jewish Sabbath to venture into Palestinian towns and villages, encouraged by a drop in tensions since the gradual withdrawal of Israeli troops from parts of the West Bank in recent years.

On a recent Saturday in Masha Village, near Nablus in the West Bank, some 2,000 shoppers, most of them Israelis, crowded the mile-long main shopping street, inspecting colorful rugs and factory-made stone reindeer figurines.

Tali Nikolu, from Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv, was searching for a table and chairs, in addition to the wooden chest she bought from Hassa, the furniture dealer. ``In Tel Aviv it's 990 shekels ($247), here it's 117 shekels ($29), but you must have a car. If I had my own car I would be here every week,'' she said.

Similar scenes are played out every weekend throughout the West Bank, with thousands of Israelis converging on shops and restaurants, especially in towns and villages that border Israel. Some areas are still considered dangerous, though, and draw few visitors, including the divided West Bank town of Hebron.

Nafiz Taha, a household goods vendor who has been running his stall in Masha for two years, said the market scene has changed considerably.

``Before there ... were threats to security. With the peace process the situation is better,'' he said.

Amin Abu Khalaf, a travel agent in east Jerusalem, organizes group package tours into the Palestinian territories. A typical two- to three-day stay includes a full day for shopping.

He said many first-time visitors express concern over security. ``But there are no problems regarding their safety. They see that once they visit,'' Abu Khalaf said.

The situation is different in the Gaza Strip, kept apart from Israel by a barbed-wire fence. Complicated entry procedures by the Israeli army deter most Israelis from traveling there just to shop. Some, however, go on package tours and spend weekends as tourists in the area, taking advantage of cheaper local prices.

In Masha, five Israeli soldiers walked up and down the market to keep an eye on shoppers. Like most villages in the West Bank, Masha is under joint Israeli-Palestinian control, with Israel remaining in charge of security, for now.

Hedva Bitton, a housewife from Netanya, said she felt reassured by the army presence, but she said relations with the Palestinians have also improved.

``It's changed because of the peace process. It is better to live together in peace, it is better for both sides,'' she said.