Hagel headed to Israel later this month

McClatchy has reported that during that trip, Obama was able to convince Israelis to stop announcing new settlements and convince the Palestinians to halt unilateral actions against the United Nations over the next two months. The hope, according to the report, is that those moves provide a window to restart peace negotiations centered around the so-called Saudi Arabia initiative introduced 11 years ago.

The White House would not confirm that report on Monday.

"I think what is true is simply what the president has long said and others have long said, which is that we discourage actively both sides from taking unilateral action that makes it more difficult to come together to negotiate over the issues that divide them, and to negotiate in a way that can bring them to peace," White House press secretary Jay Carney said. "That has long been the case, and I can absolutely confirm that the president repeated that message to both parties — that unilateral actions are not helpful to moving towards peace."

Hagel is also expected to discuss American funding of Israeli military defense systems, including a missile defense system deployed in the Gaza Strip.