The White House on Thursday urged Israel and the Palestinians to avoid actions that jeopardize efforts to restart stalled peace talks as both sides feuded over a planned settlement expansion.

Spokesman Jay Carney ducked a question on whether Israel's approval for the construction of 1,600 new settler homes in east Jerusalem would make it harder to convince the Palestinians not to seek statehood at the United Nations.

"Our position on that has not changed which is that we urge both sides not to take any action that makes it harder for the two sides to come together and negotiate," he told reporters.

His comments came after Israel Interior Minister Eli Yishai gave final approval to the construction of 1,600 units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, drawing an angry response from the Palestinians.

Yishai is expected to shortly approve 2,700 additional homes in two other east Jerusalem settlement suburbs.

The 1,600-house project in Ramat Shlomo caused a diplomatic rift between Israel and Washington when it was first announced in March 2010, as US Vice President Joe Biden visited Israel and the Palestinian territories to lay the groundwork for new direct peace talks between the two sides.

That announcement was criticized by Washington and led to a mini-crisis in ties between the allies.