On the day Israeli and Palestinian leaders were meeting in Washington in early September to re-launch direct peace talks under US mediation, Israel’s deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor briefed reporters on his high hopes for the negotiations while standing in one of those contentious West Bank settlements at the heart of the dispute – Kochav Yaakov.

Beside him sat a row of unfinished home foundations frozen since last year by the Netanyahu government’s 10- month building moratorium. But across the valley behind him was a massive, bustling, kilometer-wide quarry on the northern outskirts of Ramallah, which is steadily feeding the current Palestinian building boom in the West Bank.

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