Israel’s Prime Minister has, for the first time publicly, voiced regret for the timing of the announcement of a Jewish settlement plan which has strained ties with Washington and threatened the revival of Middle East peace talks.
However, Benjamin Netanyahu has given no indication that he will meet Palestinian demands to cancel the project for 1600 new homes.
“This is an unfortunate incident, which was carried out in all innocence, but it was offensive and of course should not have happened.” Netanyahu told his cabinet.
It is not yet clear whether the comments will help smooth relations with Washington after the settlement announcement made waves.
The planned construction is in an area of the West Bank that Israel has annexed to Jerusalem.
Palestinians fear building on land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war will deny them a viable state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.