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Netanyahu insists on East Jerusalem building, hope fades for two-state solution

Israeli Prime Minister insisted Thursday on continued settlement building in East Jerusalem. Israeli expansion in the contested city is one reason Palestinians are losing hope in the two-state solution.

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“They’ve been confiscating our land since the 1970s,” says Mr. Amori, whose family owns some of the land in question, according to the Mapping and Geographic Information Systems Department of the Arab Studies Society in Jerusalem. “Even if you do own land, it’s almost impossible to get a permit to build. It feels like a strategy to get us to move elsewhere.”

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Netanyahu: 'Jerusalem is not a settlement'

While in Washington in March, Netanyahu insisted that Israel will not halt building plans in East Jerusalem, which Israel seized from Jordan in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and later annexed. “Jerusalem is not a settlement,” he told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Amori is exasperated after stern warnings from US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and a meeting with President Obama failed to change Netanyahu’s approach. If Israel’s closest ally and biggest supporter can’t change Israel’s course, he reasons, no one can.

“Netanyahu is there meeting the most powerful man in the world, and it still doesn’t matter,” says Amori, a stout man who says his roots go back to the Amorites, an ancient Semitic people. “The Israelis can do whatever they want.”

What Israel wants is to be able to keep building in Jerusalem – in line with its claim the city is its “undivided and eternal” capital – but still get back to peace talks with the Palestinian leadership.

That is seen as a pointless exercise by Palestinians, who – increasingly frustrated not only by the policy but also its impact on their daily lives – have insisted on a settlement freeze as a precondition to renewed talks.

Palestinians face building delays

While watching Jewish areas expand, Palestinians face a byzantine process that makes it maddeningly difficult to build or expand their own homes in other areas.

Take Mahmoud Mashni and his wife, Hanan, who live near Amori. Their family owned land in what is now Pisgat Zeev, an Israeli neighborhood to the northeast. The couple, who have five children, have been trying for six years to get a permit from the municipality to build a 1,291-square-foot addition to their 700-square-foot home.

But they have yet to get an answer, despite having hired a lawyer and despite the fact that Mahmoud works for the municipality.

“There is real discrimination here,” says Mahmoud. “I’ve been trying so hard to extend the house and make my life easier, but they won’t let me. We pay our city taxes equally, but we don’t receive equally. Look at our neighborhood garbage bin that’s always overflowing. Try to find a park or any place for kids to play in other than in the street.”

These circumstances are mirrored throughout the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.