During his Tuesday visit to Muslim nation Indonesia, President Obama criticized Israel's decision to authorize new settlement construction in East Jerusalem.
Obama said the move to build 1,300 new settlement homes in the area claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians could cause a further rift between the two sides, which have not been able to agree to resume peace talks.
“This kind of activity is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations and I’m concerned that we’re not seeing each side make the extra effort involved to get a breakthrough that could finally create a framework for a secure Israel living side by side in peace with a sovereign Palestine," Obama said at a news conference with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
The president criticized the Israelis before he was set to deliver a speech Wednesday about U.S. outreach to the Muslim world.
But Obama will have to cut short his visit to Indonesia, where he lived for four years as a child, due to a cloud of volcanic ash that is headed toward the capital of Jakarta.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sat down for a round of direct talks in September, but negotiations have not resumed.
But Abbas has said he won't return to the negotiating table unless Israel halts all settlement construction.
Obama said that actions like Israel's are "never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations."
The Israelis' limited settlement freeze that was previously in place expired in September.
This post was updated at 1:15 p.m.