Israeli officials say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not drop
his opposition to a total halt to settlement construction when he meets
with U.S. President Barack Obama and Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas this week.
Israeli officials told reporters in Jerusalem that while some Israeli
leaders may support a construction freeze, Mr. Netanyahu does not.
U.S., Palestinian and Israeli leaders are set to meet on the sidelines
of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday that U.S. officials have
"no grand expectations" about a breakthrough during the talks.
While U.S. and Palestinian officials have demanded Israel stop
settlement construction before resuming peace talks, Israeli leaders
have offered to stop only some projects.
Writing in The New York Times newspaper Monday, Israeli
Defense Minister Ehud Barak says he fears the Palestinians will miss an
opportunity for peace if they continue demanding Israel stop building
The Israeli defense chief says Mr. Obama has clearly pledged to use his
political influence to make sure there is an independent Palestinian
state, and to solve core issues in two years.
Barak says this is an opportunity not to be missed.
Israel has offered to hold off on new settlement projects, while continuing to build about 3,000 Jewish homes in the West Bank.
Palestinian leaders say building more Jewish homes on land Israel
captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War threatens their efforts to create
a viable state and stalls peace efforts.
Israeli leaders say some construction is necessary to allow for "natural growth" in its West Bank settlements.