JERUSALEM – JERUSALEM (AP) — A girl tosses gravel into a rumbling cement mixer, and construction cranes rise over new apartments for Jews on land claimed by Arabs. Relatives carry the bodies of those killed on both sides. And young Jewish men study the Bible, the book they believe promises them all of the Holy Land.
The U.S.-backed peace talks launched earlier this month to seek an end to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict have drawn attention to Israel's West Banks settlements.
About 300,000 Israelis live in more then 100 settlements scattered across the West Bank. Another 180,000 live in Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, where the Palestinians want to found the capital of their hoped-for state.
Palestinians and much of the international community say the settlements undermine the chances of peace by gobbling up land slated for a future Palestine. Israel says it has the right to settle disputed territory.
The settlement issue may even derail peace talks merely three weeks after their launch, with a 10-month Israeli freeze on new settlement construction due to expire Sunday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he can't extend the measure, while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says any new construction will make him quit the talks.
But while President Barack Obama's administration seeks a way out of the impasse, the conflict on the ground continues for the Arabs and Jews whose communities lie adjacent to each other and whose lives overlap.
At a West Bank bus stop, a young Jew proudly sports a T-shirt bearing the likeness of a radical rabbi who preached driving the Palestinians out of the land by force.
Israeli soldiers tackle a Jewish settler seeking to vandalize a Palestinian home.
And both communities mourn over the bodies of those killed in the conflict over the land they claim as their own.