JERUSALEM - Israeli officials on Sunday dismissed a call from a key coalition partner of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to share the holy city of Jerusalem with the Palestinians.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, of the centrist Labor Party, raised the prospect of sharing the city at a Washington forum over the weekend.
A government official said Barak's proposal does not reflect the view of Netanyahu's administration.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Conflicting claims to the sector, home to Jewish, Muslim, and Christian holy sites, are among the thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu's stand drew criticism from Palestinians and was likely to increase friction with the United States. The White House's Mideast envoy is scheduled to arrive this week in another attempt to push peace efforts forward.
The Palestinians want to establish their future state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. Israel later annexed East Jerusalem, a move that is not recognized by the international community.
The conflicting statements on East Jerusalem came just days after the United States dropped its effort to persuade Israel to reinstate a moratorium on construction in the West Bank, which the Palestinians have demanded as a condition for the resumption of direct peace talks.
Instead, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that indirect talks would resume, while insisting that the two sides must now deal with core issues. Those include the status of Jerusalem, as well as borders, settlements, and refugees.
Palestinians criticized Israel's rejection of their claim to East Jerusalem.
"Mr. Netanyahu is distancing himself not from Barak, he is distancing himself from international consensus, he's distancing himself from international resolutions, and distancing himself from international law," said Palestinian spokesman Husam Zomlot. "And most importantly, he's distancing himself from any possible negotiated settlement based on the two-state solution."
Interviewed on ABC-TV, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said the United States might have to express its own ideas on a peace settlement.
"It may be unavoidable, actually, for the United States acting as a broker at some point to come in with bridging proposals so we make this happen," he said.
Since Netanyahu came to power nearly two years ago, he has grudgingly accepted the principle of a Palestinian state next to Israel. He has carefully refrained from getting into specifics about the core issues, however, saying those must be negotiated.
Clinton expressed frustration with the Israeli-Palestinian impasse over the weekend, though she did not suggest a new way forward. She spoke at a forum in Washington.
Addressing the same gathering, Barak said the holy city would have to be shared as part of a future peace deal.
An Israeli official told the Associated Press that Barak was expressing a personal opinion, not the government's position.
"Those remarks were not coordinated with the prime minister," the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because Netanyahu has not responded publicly to Barak's remarks or to Clinton's speech.