Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel rejected a portion of a U.S.-led commission's report that called for the end of settlement construction.

Speaking last Friday, after Secretary of State Colin Powell said he hoped the Mitchell report could serve as the basis for an Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire, Israeli Cabinet member Danny Naveh said ending construction meant to accommodate a settlement's natural growth was "impossible."

On Sunday, Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha'ath said the Palestinians would not return to the negotiating table unless Israel halted all settlement construction.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office denied May 10 it was allocating an additional $360 million to shore up security at Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

After the Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported the planned allocation earlier this week, the State Department again blasted Israel. Israel's Army Radio reported that Israel had slashed its five-year funding plan for Jewish settlements from $375 million to $150 million in response to U.S. pressure.