- Associated Press - Sunday, September 12, 2010

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday the current restrictions on West Bank settlements will not remain in place, though some limits on construction still will be in place.

Israel’s 10-month freeze on new housing starts in West Bank settlements expires at the end of this month and is a key point of contention in newly launched peace talks with Palestinians. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened repeatedly to quit the talks if Israel does not renew the restrictions.

Mr. Netanyahu told Mideast envoy Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, that the Palestinians want a total freeze in construction.

“That will not happen,” he said. Israel will not build “tens of thousands of housing units that are in the pipeline, but we will not freeze the lives of the residents,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

The prime minister imposed a 10-month freeze on new housing starts in the West Bank to promote resumption of peace talks. But several thousand housing units already being built were allowed to continue, and the measure does not apply to Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.

Members of his Likud Party and government coalition partners oppose extending the freeze on housing starts.

Mr. Blair’s office would not immediately comment about the details of the meeting.

Mr. Netanyahu also said the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, but he would not make that a condition for continuing the talks.

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