Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday his country is likely to clinch a deal with the United States later this week over the settlement activities in the West Bank, local daily Ha'aretz reported.
The agreement would be finalized during the upcoming visit of U.S. President Barack Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell, Netanyahu was quoted as saying at a meeting with ministers from his hawkish Likud party.
Israel and the United States, its top ally, have been engaged in a flurry of talks and meetings in recent months to narrow the gaps concerning the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the settlement issue at the fore. Netanyahu and Mitchell met in London last month.
Speculation is circulating in local media that Obama would meet with Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly later this month and announce the resumption of peace talks between the two Middle East neighbors.
With the clock ticking away, officials at Netanyahu's office said late last week that the prime minister intended to greenlight construction of several hundred housing units in settlements and then impose a partial suspension of settlement activities in the Palestinian territories for a few months.
A source in the Prime Minister's Office was quoted by Ha'aretz as saying that Netanyahu described the proposal as "reducing the scale of construction," instead of "moratorium" or "freeze."