JERUSALEM — As Israel prepared to release another group of 26 long-serving Palestinian prisoners overnight Monday, and was expected to follow quickly with another announcement of new construction in West Bank settlements, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced withering criticism from all corners, including conservative members of his own coalition.
Palestinian leaders threatened that any new settlement activity could lead them to seek membership and sue Israel in the International Criminal Court, a move they had promised not to take during peace talks that started this summer.
European diplomats warned the Israelis in a series of high-level meetings over the past week against pairing the prisoner release with a construction announcement, as was done twice before. Even the Israeli right-wing forces that Netanyahu aimed to appease with the settlement initiative distanced themselves from the plan, denouncing any linkage between prisoners and construction as unfortunate or even immoral.
“He is wrong because he tries to please all sides. The result is nobody is happy with his steps,” said Eitan Haber, a veteran Israeli commentator, invoking a Hebrew idiom about how a bridegroom cannot dance at two weddings.
Haber, who was a close adviser to Yitzhak Rabin, the former prime minister, added, “If you are a true leader, a real leader, you must choose your way, and go and try to implement your ideas.”
Israeli news media reported that plans for 1,400 new housing units, including 600 in East Jerusalem, would be unveiled this week, as Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to make his 10th visit to the region to push for a peace agreement.
Kerry will propose a framework for a final-status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians when he travels to the region, the Associated Press reported.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Monday that Kerry will discuss with Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine a possible guideline for addressing all core issues in the decades-long dispute.
Harf says it is not clear whether any agreement on the proposed framework would be reached during the trip, which begins on Wednesday. The two sides resumed peace talks in July.
‘‘The Israeli government’s commitment to release Palestinian prisoners helped enable the start and continuation of the final status negotiations, and we believe this is a positive step forward in the overall process,’’ Harf said.
Although the United States opposes settlement expansion, Harf declined to criticize the new building proposal because it has not been finalized.
Netanyahu, who agreed to release a total of 104 Palestinian prisoners over nine months of negotiations rather than freeze settlement construction, said Monday that “the protection of settlement in the land of Israel” is one of the nation’s “vital interests.”
“Leadership is judged by its ability to take hard decisions,” the prime minister told lawmakers with his Likud faction. “The state of Israel, I believe, has a strategic interest in the existence of diplomatic negotiations whose goal is to achieve an agreement that will end the conflict.”