WASHINGTON - The White House said on Friday a new Israeli settlement expansion plan was "counterproductive" and could make it harder to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

"We reiterate our longstanding opposition to settlements and east Jerusalem construction and announcements," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

"We believe these actions are counterproductive and make it harder to resume direct negotiations or achieve a two state solution," Vietor said. "Direct negotiations remain our goal and we encourage all parties to take steps to make that easier to achieve."

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