The United States has asked Israel to order a one-year moratorium on building in Jewish settlements in the West Bank to unblock the Middle East peace process, Israel''s Haaretz daily reported on Thursday.

The request was put forward by George Mitchell, President Barack Obama''s special envoy to the Middle East, who visited Israel last week. The White House believes a moratorium would encourage Arab countries to move forward with the normalization of ties with Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak did not dismiss the issue in principle during talks with the U.S. envoy, but rejected some of its points. The discussions are expected to continue during a meeting between Netanyahu and Mitchell in London on August 26.

The issue of Jewish settlements on occupied territory is now the main obstacle to reviving peace talks with the Palestinians, and since Obama became U.S. president it has become a sticking point in relations with Israel''s main strategic ally, which has called for an end to settlement expansion.