JERUSALEM Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told visiting U.S. congressmen he thinks it could be possible to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians in a year despite huge differences, his spokesman said.
Netanyahu told the visiting delegation that he "believes it possible, through such direct and contiguous negotiations, held without breaks or delays, to achieve a peace agreement within a year," spokesman Nir Hefez said on Monday.
Netanyahu said he thought a goal of the Quartet of Middle East power brokers -- the U.S., European Union, United Nations and Russia -- to agree on the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, was attainable, Hefez added.
The next round of Israeli, Palestinian negotiations was scheduled for September 14 in Egypt, followed by a session expected on the following day, possibly in Jerusalem and in the attendance of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In an interview with a Palestinian newspaper, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would not continue the negotiations with Israel if Jewish settlement construction resumed once a temporary hiatus expires on September 26.
"You must know that if you do not continue the settlement halt, we will leave these negotiations," the al-Ayyam newspaper quoted Abbas as saying he had told Netanyahu in their talks.
"If the freeze is not extended...there will not be any negotiations," Abbas said.
Netanyahu was under pressure from right-wing cabinet ministers to renew construction in occupied land Palestinians seek for a state.
Some officials see a possibility of construction resuming in certain settlement blocs so as to keep the Israeli government intact, though Palestinians have not publicly said they agreed.
(Additional reporting by Tom Perry in Ramallah)
(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Michael Roddy)