RAMALLAH, West Bank — A senior Palestinian official on Sunday rejected the idea of a partial Israeli settlement freeze as a way of restarting peace talks, a sign of tough times ahead for the Obama administration’s new attempt to bring the sides together.
Secretary of State John Kerry met separately late Saturday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to talk about ending a deadlock of more than four years over settlements.
Abbas said he will not return to negotiations without an Israeli construction freeze, arguing that Israel’s building on war-won land preempts the outcome of talks on a border between Israel and a future state of Palestine. Abbas last held talks with Netanyahu’s predecessor in late 2008.
Netanyahu has refused to halt construction and instead calls for an immediate return to negotiations.
President Obama sided with Israel’s position during a visit to the region last week, saying the Palestinians should return to talks to sort out the settlement issue.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Sunday that the Palestinians do not seek a confrontation with the Obama administration but appeared to suggest that nothing short of a full freeze will bring them back to negotiations.