“United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement expansion and we urge that it stop,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement. “We are working to create a climate in which negotiations can take place, and such actions make it harder to create such a climate.”

Netanyahu’s aides, speaking on condition of anonymity Friday because the plans have not been formally announced, said any Israeli settlement freeze would not halt building the new units and or block completion of some 2,500 others currently under construction. They also said the freeze would not include east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians hope to make their future capital.

The unusually blunt White House criticism reflected the administration’s growing frustration with Netanyahu, whose decision would approve hundreds of new housing units in West Bank settlements before considering even a temporary freeze in construction, as President Barack Obama has requested.