The Obama administration rebuked Israel on Friday of approving more construction on occupied land before considering a freeze on such construction, further complicating U.S. efforts to revive Middle East peace talks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's aides said Friday on condition of anonymity because the plans have not been formally announced, that any Israeli settlement freeze would not halt building the new units and or block completion of some 2,500 others currently under construction.
President Barack Obama has been pressuring Netanyahu government to halt settlement building as a prelude to a resumption of the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
We regret the reports of Israel's plans to approve additional settlement construction, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
As the president has said before, the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement expansion and we urge that it stop. We are working to create a climate in which negotiations can take place, and such actions make it harder to create such a climate, Gibbs said in a statement.
We are working with all parties - Israelis, Palestinians, and Arab states - on the steps they must take to achieve that objective, said Gibbs.
The Palestinians insisted they would accept nothing less than a total freeze on settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, land they want as part of a future state.
Israel is already building some 2,500 housing units at West Bank settlements that are in various stages of construction.
The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, meeting in Paris with French president Nicolas Sarkozy, said the plan was not acceptable.
The target for the talks to resume is late September at the next gathering of the United Nations General Assembly, which Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Abbas and Mr. Obama will all attend.