Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday that any peace process initiated by the government would "require sensitivity, in preparation for difficult decisions along the way".
"It's time for decisions," Barak told a mayors' conference. "We have been going round in circles for too many years, and hoping that the other side and the nations of the world would have a clear understanding of the situation and that an opportunity would not be missed."
The minister added that Israel should be promoting peace negotiations. "It's not something anyone should be forcing down our throats. Israel has a top interest in reaching a permanent settlement and creating two countries for two peoples while maintaining our interests," he said.
On Monday Barak approved the construction of 455 housing units in West Bank settlements in a move that may irk the US, which is pressing Israel to freeze all construction in settlements.
"We are trying to reach an understanding with the US regarding the settlements, and we are working hard to do so with reason and good measure so that we are on their side and not against it," he said.
The defense minister said construction in the West Bank is "part of a positive national necessity that must be handled with reason and consideration, not with incitement and internal disagreements".
Just 35 of the 100 mayors summoned to the conference were present, as Judea and Samaria mayors decided to boycott Barak's speech over the impending freeze just a few hours before the conference began.