JERUSALEM -- Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas criticized Israel and, indirectly, the United States over Jewish settlements yesterday, and Israel's defense minister warned he would send troops into Gaza to seize Palestinian antiaircraft missiles, the latest threats to efforts to expand a truce into lasting peace.
Incensed over a repeat of US support for Israel retaining main settlement blocs in the West Bank in a peace deal, Abbas did not name the United States, but his target was clear.
''Any talk of settlements that is not a discussion of stopping them is unacceptable," Abbas said. ''Here I'm talking about the discussions of annexing settlement blocs. This is unacceptable, because this affects final-status issues."
The Palestinians claim all of the West Bank.
The issue resurfaced over the weekend with a leaked Foreign Ministry document that quoted US Ambassador Daniel C. Kurtzer as saying the United States did not support Israel keeping West Bank settlements. That leak occurred against the background of reports that Israel plans to expand the largest one, Maaleh Adumim, next to Jerusalem, by building 3,500 homes.
Kurtzer angrily denied a newspaper report based on the document, repeating a statement from President Bush that a peace settlement would have to take into account Israel's main settlement blocs.
In April, during a visit by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel, Bush gave the first US endorsement of settlements, writing in a letter, ''In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final-status negotiations will be a full and complete return" of the West Bank.
Kurtzer and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice repeated the Bush formula, but US officials also criticized the plan to expand Maaleh Adumim, which would fill the last vacant patch around Jerusalem, cutting off the Arab section from the West Bank with Jewish neighborhoods. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their independent state.
At a Cabinet meeting yesterday, Sharon said the Bush administration still opposes the expansion of settlements.
''The United States differentiates between keeping settlement blocs and continuing building in the settlements at this time," Sharon said, according to participants. ''They have been opposed to this since 1968."
The settlement issue has been a major sticking point in attempts to institute the US-backed ''road map" peace plan, which did not get off the ground after Bush introduced it in 2003. But with a seven-week truce holding for the most part, there have been hopes that peacemaking can resume, based on the plan.
The initial stage requires Israel to halt all settlement construction and remove dozens of unauthorized outposts from the West Bank, while the Palestinians dismantle violent groups. Neither side has carried out those steps.
The truce itself is teetering, with allegations by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz of Israel that Palestinians succeeded in smuggling Strela antiaircraft missiles into Gaza through tunnels at the border with Egypt.
If true, the missiles could threaten Israeli military helicopters flying over Gaza. According to Cabinet meeting participants, Mofaz said: ''Last week several Strelas were smuggled in by Palestinian military intelligence. If the Palestinians [police] don't get hold of the Strelas, we will."
Israel has refrained from raids into Gaza since Sharon and Abbas declared a truce Feb. 8. Before that, Israeli forces went into Gaza several times a week, looking for militants and destroying tunnels.
Rejecting Mofaz's warnings, Nabil Shaath, Palestinian information minister, that Israel was trying to sabotage the truce. ''I hope this is not an indication of future Israeli acts of aggression against us," he said.
Mofaz also told the Cabinet that he ordered a postponement in handing over Qalqiliya, the third of five Palestinian towns due to be transferred to Palestinian security. He contended that the Palestinians are not carrying out their security pledges in the first two, Jericho and Tulkarem.