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Israel-Palestine border talks hindered by violence, wall of fear

Israeli-Palestinian border talks are on hold, and each side is waging a war of words against the other. With acts of violence and ‘price tag’ attacks on the rise, some say Israel is building new walls “wherever there are Arabs.”

Israel insists it is building separation walls to prevent terrorism and illegal immigration, both of which reportedly dropped 90 percent after the barriers were erected.

“Our neighbors, next door, the Arabs, they making a lot of troubles for us,” Israeli Itay Nachon told RT. “There is people here that are farmers, they have land growing wheat or something else, and [the Palestinians] used to burn everything. They are selling drugs. They come to our houses and steal to pay for drugs they want.”

The separation walls are also seen as a tool of self-defense: “Of course it saves lives… the fact is that Israel is defending itself and preparing itself for possible, future attacks towards the borders of Israel is a necessity,” terror analyst Yoram Schweitzer of the Institute for National Strategic Studies told RT.

Jews and Arabs have lived side-by-side for generations in the Israeli city of Lod, a 20-minute drive from Tel Aviv. But in one part of the city, the two groups are now living on opposite sides of a concrete wall.

Lod has the highest homicide rate in Israel, which police say is due to infighting among Arab families. The Palestinians deny this claim, and say the walls are aimed at keeping them under siege and annexing Palestinian land.

“There is no reason to build this wall besides racism. They built it because we are Arabs. It bothers me, they did not leave us any room and they do not even own this land,” a Lod resident identified as Ashraf told RT.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintains that the only way to “end the negotiations for peace is to begin them," but the Palestinians have taken no concrete steps in this direction.

"This conflict predates 1967 by almost half a century, it predates the settlements," Netanyahu said Thursday night at the closing panel of the President's Conference in Jerusalem.

“Jews fear Arabs and wherever there are Arabs they build around them a wall … if there are no Arabs so they don’t build a wall,” Lod resident Abdullah told RT.

Israel more isolated by the day

“The walls became the name of the game of Israel. Virtual walls and real walls. The feeling is that the Israelis are more and more getting into their ghetto. Everything will be ‘solved’ by building a wall. And above all, the walls against us, let’s build a wall,” Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy wrote.

Street violence against Arabs – such as ‘price tag’ attacks that often involving young Israelis – has also been on the rise in Israel. Earlier this month, Netanyahu went as far as decrying “racism against Israeli Arabs and acts of hooliganism against Palestinians.”

‘Price tag’ attacks are acts of violence and vandalism radical Israel settlers commit against both Palestinians and Israeli security forces in retribution for any actions viewed as antagonistic to the expansion of settlements.

In one recent incident, assailants believed to be Jewish extremists slashed the tires of 28 cars, and left hateful slogans on homes of Arabs in the village of Abu Ghosh.

Last week, the Israeli government decided against defining hate crimes perpetrated against Arabs as acts of terrorism, asserting that the assailants would instead be treated as members of illegal organizations.

The decision makes the victims of such crimes ineligible for compensation from the state. And while those who possess comprehensive insurance may be reimbursed, the rest will have to cover the costs themselves.

"The State of Israel must recognize victims of Jewish terrorism the same way it recognize victims of terrorism perpetrated by Arabs," said Gadi Gvaryahu, the founder of Tag Meir, an advocacy group for the victim of ‘price tag’ attacks.