JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he is opposed to freezing construction in settlements as a means to extend US-sponsored peace talks with Palestinians.
Such a freeze “would serve nothing,” Netanyahu told public radio.
“We imposed one in the past and it brought no results,” the premier said of the 10-month construction moratorium he issued during the last round of peace talks with Palestinians that ended in 2010.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has been struggling to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree a framework for extending direct peace talks, launched in July, beyond an April 29 deadline.
But Israel and the Palestinians remain divided on all the major issues, including borders, security, settlements, Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.
Starts on new settlement building in the West Bank increased by 123.7 percent last year, according to recently-published data from Israel’s statistics bureau.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has said that his side would not agree to extend negotiations without Israel releasing further prisoners and halting settlement construction.
According to Netanyahu, who met with Kerry and US President Barack Obama in Washington last week, a framework agreement to extend talks would not necessitate Israeli and Palestinian signatures but rather only by “an American document on American positions”.
“I’m not sure the Palestinians will accept it,” Netanyahu told public radio of the framework agreement.
Obama is due to meet Abbas on March 17 at the White House.