Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged Israeli settlers to act with restraint after a limited construction moratorium expired yesterday, a plea that appeared aimed at keeping Middle East peace talks alive.

As settler leaders and members of Netanyahu’s Likud party gathered at a rally to celebrate the end of the partial freeze, a Palestinian official said there had been no breakthrough in U.S. efforts to save the negotiations.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to quit the talks, launched in Washington on Sept. 2, if building resumed in settlements in the occupied West Bank where Netanyahu froze housing starts in November.

Netanyahu, whose governing coalition is dominated by pro-settler parties, has resisted pressure from President Barack Obama to extend the 10-month moratorium.
But the Israeli leader has held out the prospect of limiting the scope of renewed construction, a message he seemed to underscore in an official statement.

“The prime minister calls on the residents in Judea and Samaria and the political parties to show restraint and responsibility today and in the future exactly as they showed restraint and responsibility throughout the months of the freeze,” it said.