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As Mideast talks begin, Palestinians find unlikely support from Jewish settlers

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IN PICTURES: A West Bank Wall

"The settlers are part of the problem," says Ali Alarej, a Palestinian who leads weekly protests against the wall going up around Walaja, a community that will be cut off from Jerusalem. "Instead of joining our protest, they should get up and move back inside the Green Line," he added after a recent protest, referring to the 1949 armistice line.

Nachum Pachenik, who lives in the West Bank settlement bloc of Gush Etzion, encountered such resistance when he led a group of settlers to join the Walaja protest in April. When the settlers heard locals were preparing to throw stones at them, they abandoned the trip.

Fellow settler Myron Joshua was also turned away from Palestinian protests in the town of Umm Salamuna last year. "I called the [organizer] up, and when he heard I was a settler, there was a problem," he says.

Such cold receptions are a reminder of how hard it is to reach across the charged divide between Israel and the Palestinian territories. It also underscores the mistrust between the two sides as Netanyahu begins direct peace talks Thursday with the Palestinian Authority headed by Abbas.

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