Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu said he will expand settlements in the Palestinian territories.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to defy the US and expand Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories on the West Bank, according to official sources in Tel Aviv.

The Israeli leader has no intention of opening the door to negotiations with the Palestinians by declaring a freeze on settlement construction, according to government sources.

In a reference to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, the source said: "Abu Mazen received this opportunity once. This will not happen again.

"If the Palestinians want to talk they know we are waiting for them at the table."

On a visit to Israel on Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke of the need for both sides to make tough concessions, following four years of stalled negotiations in Jerusalem and Ramallah.

"We are reaching the time where the leaders need to make hard decisions," Kerry said.

He urged Israel to halt settlement activity voluntarily, but gave the Israeli leadership some leeway by adding that demands for a freeze on construction should not be a pre-condition for direct talks between the two sides.

"We are trying to get to talks without pre-conditions," said Kerry. "We do not want to get stuck in a place where we are arguing about a particular substantive issue that is part of a final settlement.

"That argument takes you so long that you never get to the negotiations that bring about the final settlement."

The Palestinians say they cannot re-enter talks with Israel until it ends construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Israel has refused to cede to that request, insisting talks should be held without pre-conditions.

However, Netanyahu came under immediate pressure from his coalition partners in the secular Yesh Atid party - or There Is A Future.

Welfare Minister Meir Cohen, of Yesh Atid, demanded Israel immediately dismantle settlements without waiting for negotiations, Israel Radio reported on Saturday.

"These settlements cost us a lot of money and we must do the utmost so we do not appear to be a state that does everything to scuttle negotiations," he said.

Israel had lost control of its settlers in some instances, in particular those he characterised as the "hill-top youth", Cohen added.

"We must deal with this youth and bring them back to normal behaviour," said Cohen.