MARRAKESH, Morocco (CNN) – Two days after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton angered Palestinian leaders by praising Israel for what she called "unprecedented" steps to limit - but not fully halt - the construction of Jewish settlements, she clarified her remarks.
Reading Monday from a prepared statement, Clinton said, "They (the Israelis) will build no new settlements, expropriate no new land, allow no new construction or approvals. And let me just say, this offer falls far short of our position or what our preference would be. But if it is acted upon it will be unprecedented restrictions on settlements and would have a significant effect upon restraining their growth."
For months, the Obama administration has insisted that Israel freeze all new settlement construction. In May, Clinton said President Barack Obama "wants to see a stop to settlements. Not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions."
But on Saturday, standing beside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Clinton praised him for simply slowing settlement
"What the prime minister has offered in specifics of a restraint on the policy of settlements, which he has just described - no new starts, for example - is unprecedented in the context of the prior two negotiations," she said.
Earlier that day, at a hastily scheduled meeting in Abu Dhabi, Clinton urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to return to the
negotiating table with no preconditions over freezing settlements. Abbas refused.
Monday in Marrakesh, Clinton was lobbying Arab foreign ministers to support the resumption of the stalled peace talks. But the frustration over Clinton's comments was evident, with Amr Moussa, secretary general of Arab League, calling the Israeli position on settlements a "slap in the face" of the Palestinians.
That followed Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat's strongly worded statement issued Sunday.
"What the Israelis are offering is not unprecedented," he said. "What would be unprecedented is a comprehensive settlement freeze by Israel ... and a halt to Israeli policies in occupied East Jerusalem such as home demolitions, evictions and rapid settlement expansion."
He added, "If America cannot get Israel to implement a settlement freeze, what chance do Palestinians have of reaching agreement with Israel on permanent status issues?"
Clinton, in her statement Monday, said she wanted to "take a step back because I want to put this into the broader context. I will offer positive reinforcement to the parties when I believe they are taking steps that support the objective of reaching a two-state solution.
"I will also push them as I have in public and in private to do even more."
She said that in a report to Obama last month, she praised both Israel's "willingness to restrain settlement activity" and the Palestinian Authority's "security measures on the West Bank."
"The steps being taken under President Abbas and Prime Minister (Salsam) Fayed are also unprecedented and we have never seen such effective security," she said. "I have on many occasions ... praised the accomplishments that the Palestinian Authority has demonstrated in building, training, and reforming their security forces."