The US and Israel will announce that negotiations to renew the moratorium on building in West Bank settlements have failed, a US official said Tuesday.

The official, speaking in Jerusalem on condition of anonymity, said "we reached the conclusion this is not the time to renew direct negotiation by renewing the (settlements) moratorium." He added that Israel will not receive F-35 fighter jets or other benefits from the US promised in exchange for the freeze, and that Washington would now work on pursuing a deal on security and border issues, reported Reuters.

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"We will try to forge another way to renew peace talks," the official stated.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak Tuesday told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that a deal was never reached with the United States on a renewed settlement freeze because the US is preoccupied with the mass of documents being released by WikiLeaks.

Barak said, "At the moment, it has been completely halted" because of what he called a loss of American attention and concentration, saying they were "very busy with North Korea and the WikiLeaks releases."

The defense minister added that the "understandings the prime minister [Binyamin Netanyahu] reached [with US Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton were a gentleman's agreement and not finalized." He continued, "The US now needs to get congressional approval [for the deal]."

Netanyahu met with Clinton in New York last month in a marathon session to find a way to renew peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which have been stalled for several months since a 10-month settlement freeze expired. The Palestinians have refused to return to the negotiating table until Israel reinstates a West Bank building moratorium.

Netanyahu and Clinton reportedly reached an agreement whereby Israel would institute another three-month freeze in exchange for a package of incentives, including 20 F35 advanced fighter planes. Israel has delayed a security cabinet vote on the freeze pending US delivery of written assurances of the understandings agreed upon.

The letter has not yet arrived.


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