Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ignored Washington’s call to extend a partial settlement freeze in occupied Palestinian territories.
On Friday, US President Barack Obama said it would make sense for Tel Aviv to extend the 10-month moratorium during its direct talks with the Palestinian Authority.
"It makes sense to extend that moratorium as long as the talks are moving in a constructive way," Obama said at a White House news conference in which he spoke of "enormous hurdles" facing the negotiations.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Netanyahu made no mention of Obama’s remarks on the settlements, focusing instead on the bedrock Israeli demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a state in any accord.
In an address to ministers from his ruling Likud party, the Israeli premier indicated that a limited, partial resumption of construction was an option when the moratorium expires, saying, “There is all or nothing, but there are also midway options,” Bloomberg reported.
Netanyahu expressed similar comments to Tony Blair, the Middle East envoy of the Quartet, which is comprised of the US, EU, Russia and the UN, that his cabinet cannot extend the partial freeze.
“Israel will not build all the tens of thousands of housing units awaiting approval, but on the other hand, we won’t freeze the lives of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) residents by freezing construction,” he said.
Even with the moratorium in place, Tel Aviv continued to announce new building plans. A settler leader has said that extending the freeze would spell the end of the Netanyahu cabinet.
The Israeli prime minister’s comment has cast a shadow over the outcome of Tuesday’s resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks in the Egyptian Red sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.