Arab leaders have described Israel's settlement policies as "very, very negative." But Israel is relieved that they stopped short of abandoning peace talks.
Israeli officials have expressed satisfaction with a decision by the Arab League to give the United States another month to save peace talks with the Palestinians from collapse. Arab foreign ministers meeting in Libya backed a Palestinian demand not to negotiate unless Israel extends a moratorium on settlement construction that expired two weeks ago. But Israel hopes that in the next month, the U.S. can hammer out a compromise.
"We are working very seriously with the United States to try to insure that the direct talks that started between us and the Palestinians continue," said Israeli spokesman Mark Regev.
Israel has rejected U.S. and Palestinian demands to extend the moratorium, throwing the peace process into crisis. But under an emerging deal, Israel would extend the settlement freeze for two months in exchange for American security guarantees. That could lead to the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
A return to the negotiating table would not be in the interest of the rival Palestinian militant group Hamas that rules the Gaza Strip. Hamas, which refuses to renounce violence or recognize Israel, accused the Arab League of letting Israel off the hook.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said peace talks with Israel have only led to political paralysis and are a waste of time. He called on Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank to resist the Israeli occupation.