Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday that he wanted to resume peace talks, but that construction in the settlements in the West Bank would continue, "and continues today."
He added, though, that "we need to realize what is going on around us. We have to be smart about it, not just correct."
- Official figures show spike in settlement construction
- Palestinians lay groundwork for future state
"Settlement in the blocs wouldn't substantively change the ability to reach an agreement," he said,
adding that "the real question is whether or not there is a will to recognize the Jewish State."
Netanyahu spoke behind closed doors and officials released some of his remarks in a statement issued later to reporters.
Israel has long said that under any peace agreement it intends to keep its largest settler enclaves built in Ariel, near the Palestinian city of Nablus, in Gush Etzion in the Bethlehem area, and in the Jerusalem area.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has so far linked a resumption of peace talks to a total freeze in settlement construction, which Palestinians see as establishing facts on the ground that deny them land they need for a viable state.
Settlement construction was cited as a key reason for the breakdown of US-sponsored peace talks in 2010, and a stumbling block to Secretary of State John Kerry's latest efforts to revive negotiations towards founding a Palestinian state in land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
One of Netanyahu's senior political partners, MK Avigdor Lieberman, told Army Radio Israel was already observing a break in construction in east Jerusalem.
"One should view this as a temporary hiatus," the former foreign minister said, addng: "We have an interest in Kerry succeeding."
Since taking office in February, Kerry has visited Israel and the Palestinian territories four times in his drive to win the agreement of the sides to renew negotiations.
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