China has told Israel it will not allow migrant builders to work in Jewish areas of Judea and Samaria, a senior Israeli government official said on Monday.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pledged during his reelection campaign to step up settlement construction, and cabinet ministers in his new government have called for more building in Judea-Samaria, which is seen by the international community as an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.
Israel is hoping to bring in thousands of foreign workers to accelerate the pace of the construction across the country, media reported.
"We are negotiating with China for an agreement on the arrival of thousands of additional workers," the official told AFP, requesting anonymity.
"For the moment, the talks are stumbling over several problems, including the employment of these immigrants in settlements in Judea and Samaria," he said.
"Beijing is demanding that we ensure there are no workers in this region," he added, without elaborating.
There has been no immediate comment from Beijing, but China's position could undermine lengthy negotiations between the two countries aimed at striking a labor agreement.
Under the deal the Israeli government would be responsible for bringing foreigners into the country to work in the construction sector, Haaretz newspaper reported on Sunday.
"The agreement would replace the current arrangement, in which private companies contract directly with Chinese firms that supply the labor, an arrangement that has resulted in allegations of serious violations of labor laws," the paper said.
The Israeli official denied that China's decision had anything to do with growing calls for an economic and cultural boycott of the Jewish state.
"It is more likely linked to Beijing's diplomatic position that supports the creation of a Palestinian state and opposes Israel's presence" in Judea-Samaria, he said.
Israel has increasingly turned to China as a strategic partner over the past year, as relations with the US and the EU sour.