Continued from page 1

The Palestinians oppose all Israeli construction in the West Bank, saying it cripples plans for a viable Palestinian state. Some 300,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements, scattered among 2.5 million Palestinians. Another 180,000 Israelis live in east Jerusalem.

In practice, the slowdown has brought about only a slight drop of about 10 percent in ongoing construction. But it has cut new housing starts significantly — by about 50 percent, according to the dovish Israeli group Peace Now, meaning it could have far more impact if the restrictions remain in place.

In a television interview, settler leader Mr. Dayan acknowledged it would take some time for work really to begin.

“Whoever thinks that tomorrow there will be some kind of earthquake and there will be bulldozers wherever you look is wrong. That is not going to happen. It’s a process and takes a while,” he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton held talks with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials over the weekend in hopes of forging a deal.

Before boarding a plane back to Israel, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the BBC on Sunday that chances of success were “fifty-fifty.” The chief Israeli and Palestinian negotiators remained in the United States, leaving a window open for a last-minute agreement.

One of Mr. Obama’s chief advisers, David Axelrod, told ABC News that efforts were continuing.

“We’re very eager to keep these talks going,” he said. “We are going to urge and urge and push throughout this day to — to get some kind of resolution.”

In Washington, a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation said urgent diplomatic efforts were under way Sunday to rescue the peace talks.

“They are talking. Intense efforts are ongoing,” the official said.

Despite the tensions, there have been signs of compromise. Senior Palestinian officials told the Associated Press last week they were prepared to show “some flexibility.”

In an interview published Sunday in the pan-Arabic daily al-Hayat, Mr. Abbas said he would not withdraw immediately from peace talks if construction resumes. Instead, he said he would convene the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Arab League to formulate a joint response.

Mr. Abbas ruled out a violent response.

“We won’t go back to that again,” he said.

Associated Press writers Matti Friedman and Dalia Nammari in Jerusalem and Mark Lavie in Washington contributed to this report.