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Gap Widens Between Israelis and Palestinians on Settlements


Despite calls by President Obama for peace negotiations to begin, Israel and the Palestinians are not making plans to resume talks. One issue holding up the peace process is Israel's continuing construction inside Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. The Palestinians have said they will not return to talks unless Israel freezes construction. Israelis living in the settlements say they should have a right to build homes to accommodate growing families.

For thousands of Israelis, life in the settlements of the occupied West Bank means spacious homes, tight-knit communities, and peace - at least inside the barbed wire.

Pnina Ariel is originally from the U.S. She welcomes journalists on an organized tour, into her home, where she raised several children. "In here, for the children, it's great for them. It's very nice to raise the children here. The ties, the connections, it makes for very strong community ties. A lot of people relate to that and want it for themselves, forgetting about what's around us," she said.

What's around them is a Palestinian population that increasingly wants the settlers to go.

In the village of A'yn Qenya near Dolev, Ali Yacoub is unemployed, four years after losing his job as a cook inside the settlement. "There are no permits to go into the settlement anymore. I should qualify for a permit because I am 57 years old, but I do not have one. The school where I used to work as a cook does not want Arabs working there," he said.

Like all Palestinians who worked on the settlement, Yacoub was laid off after the last Palestinian uprising in 2000. It prompted Israel's government to seal off Jewish communities in the West bank to stop attacks by Arabs against Jews.

The road between Arab A'yn Qenya and Jewish Dolev is now sealed.

With jobs and all semblance of interaction gone, Yacoub says for him, there is even less reason to want the settlers around. "There is not one person in the world who does not hope for peace. But there is one basic thing: As long as the settlements exist, there will be no peace," he said.

The tour, organized by Jewish settlers, is on a bullet-proof bus. It takes reporters into another settlement.

Zimra Siegman, originally from the United States, lived on a settlement in the Gaza Strip until Israel evicted all Jewish settlers from Gaza in 2005. Her family has been living in a trailer here at the Charasha settlement. "I would like to build a home here. We have seven children and the caravan is a little small for us. We need very much to expand our home, but right now, we're unable to," she siad. "Since I lived through this once already, I have to admit that putting all your life savings into building a home and having it mowed over by a tractor is very difficult."

With peace negotiations stalled and the future of the settlements unclear, Zimra, like thousands of other young settlers, are watching and waiting.

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