In Israel this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the green light for the construction of hundreds of new homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank — despite the Obama administration's push for a settlement freeze.
No sooner was the news made official than a group of settlers held a ceremony where they laid a cornerstone for a newly approved group of buildings.
But elsewhere in the West Bank, something different is happening. Palestinian leaders say they can no longer simply wait for the peace process to move forward: They are trying to create their own "facts on the ground."
In a traffic circle in the West Bank city of Jenin, Palestinian policemen randomly stop and check vehicles. Sgt. Mohammed Abu Amireh says the checkpoint is strategically placed.
"It's a central location. Cars move downtown and out of town from here, so we need to monitor this place," he says.
It's a far cry from the days when militias controlled the town and Israeli tanks rolled through the streets regularly.
Nacif Essuqi, a parking lot attendant, says the change is significant.
"There has been a big change in the Palestinian Authority's ability to exercise its jurisdiction over the people of Jenin and the town of Jenin. Security has improved tremendously," he says.
In April 2008, the Palestinian security services launched a campaign to get the town under control, says Col. Rade Asedeh, the area commander for Jenin.
"Since then, not one bullet has been shot against the Israelis from Jenin. In return, though, we've gotten very little. They haven't withdrawn one meter from any part of the West Bank. They've pulled down a few checkpoints, but that's it," he says.
Under the so-called road map for Middle East peace — a U.S.-brokered document adopted in 2003 — Palestinians promised to crack down on militant groups. In return, Israelis were supposed to freeze settlement activity.
Asedeh says he is frustrated by what he perceives as a lack of acknowledgment on the part of the occupying power that things have changed.
"We have achieved all that was asked of us. We have shown that we are capable of imposing law and order. Israel has not cooperated with us at all, we feel," he says.
And the Palestinians are now saying they won't wait anymore.
"It is our responsibility to build our state," Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad says in an interview with NPR. "It is not going to happen by itself, or for us to think that we could wait until somebody else does it for us."
With that goal in mind, Fayyad last week launched an ambitious two-year plan. He tells NPR that at the end of that period, the Palestinian Authority should function pretty much as a state. The focus will be on building up the institutions that can govern the Palestinian people.
"We believe that if we do this right, then, if the occupation will not have ended by then, if the political process will not have ended by then, it will actually produce the state, de facto, on the ground," he says.
But Fayyad acknowledges that without a deal with Israel, the dream of a Palestinian state will never be realized.
There are reports that Palestinian and Israeli leaders will meet later this month on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, and that formal peace talks could resume shortly thereafter.
The Obama administration is trying to hammer out a deal with the Israelis that will see them commit to a temporary settlement freeze. The Palestinians say that without that, there can be no resumption of peace talks.
Fayyad says Israel's recent approval of new housing in the West Bank is a bad sign.
"Just at a time when what we are looking for — what we all should be looking for — are actions and statements that would give this [a] maximum chance, what we have [here] is a statement that goes in the opposite direction. This is definitely problematic," he says.
But Fayyad wouldn't go so far as to say it is a deal-breaker. Palestinians will negotiate for peace, but their focus should also be on getting their own house in order, he says.
"It is a Palestinian state. It should be built by us. Get people excited about something like this. It is a decidedly positive message, and it can move people in a most constructive way," Fayyad says.