TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the Palestinians on Tuesday for scuttling the chances of a politically risky compromise he offered for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

``We were very close, very close to an agreement on the negotiations with the Palestinians a few days ago,'' Netanyahu told a conference on Middle East affairs. ``There has been a retreat on the Palestinian side and I think it's important that the Palestinians come back to the table and restore and move on understandings that were achieved in the negotiations.''

Palestinian officials have not reported any recent progress. Though negotiators have not met formally for weeks, a senior Palestinian official on Tuesday confirmed earlier reports that secret talks had been held between the sides to find agreement over the scope of a withdrawal.

The basis for the negotiations is a U.S. proposal that Israel withdraw from 13 percent of the West Bank. The Palestinians have agreed to the plan, while Israel initially said handing over 13 percent would endanger its security. Israel then countered with a proposal to turn 3 percent of that land into a nature reserve, which would limit Palestinian control in the area. The Palestinians have not objected to land use restrictions in principle.

Netanyahu did not disclose what had been agreed upon but said he had taken personal political risks to work out a deal that members of his own party oppose.

``I pay a political price. But it cannot be that while I am indicating my willingness to risk political concession and political attacks, the Palestinian side takes no risks, and they only address one side of the equation,'' Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu has been under pressure from the far right-wing in his coalition and the influential Jewish settler lobby to cede as little land as possible.

Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Ahmed Qureia, confirmed Tuesday that he was holding the low-key talks with Yitzhak Molcho, an attorney and confidant of Netanyahu.

``There are contacts, but there is no agreement,'' Qureia told The Associated Press.