Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed regret over the announcement he made about a Jewish settlement plan that strained ties with the US and undermined efforts to jumpstart the stalled Middle East peace talks.
"There was a regrettable incident here that occurred innocently," Netanyahu said on Sunday.
However, in his first public remarks since the controversy arose, Netanyahu gave no indication he would respond positively to Palestinians’ calls for the cancellation of the project to build 1,600 new settler homes in an area of the West Bank that Israel has annexed to Jerusalem Al-Quds.
The announcement of the plan, which was made last week while US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting, caused the Israeli prime minister’s most serious crisis with Washington since he took office a year ago.
"I suggest not to get carried away and to calm down," Netanyahu told his cabinet.
Tel Aviv has ignored repeated calls by the international community for a total freeze on Israeli settlement activities in East Jerusalem Al-Quds, even though Palestinian negotiators have made the freeze a condition for the resumption of peace talks.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bluntly called Israel’s behavior "insulting" and told Netanyahu in a telephone call on Friday that he must act to repair the relationship.
The Palestinians claim Jerusalem Al-Quds as the capital of their future state.
Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem Al-Quds has never been recognized by the international community, which regards the ring of Jewish neighborhoods Israel has built as illegal settlements.