18 May 2009
Israel has begun constructing a new settlement in the northern West Bank for the first time in 26 years, Army Radio reported.
The move comes on the eve of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s first meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, despite Western calls for Israel to halt its settlement activity.
Tenders have been issued for 20 housing units in the new Maskiot settlement and contractors have arrived on site to begin foundational work, the radio reported.
The initiative began three years ago, under the auspices of then defense minister Amir Peretz, who promised to transform a former army outpost into a permanent settlement for evacuees from the Gaza Strip. The move was then frozen due to American insistence.
The Jordan Valley Regional Council head, David Ahayeini, has insisted that the construction is being carried out completely legally.
“There is full consensus among Zionist parties that the Jordan Valley must remain under Israeli control within the framework of any diplomatic deal,” he said. “The Jordan Valley is needed for the sake of state security, and woe to the administration that strays from this path.”
The Peace Now movement called the move proof that “Netanyahu is not ready to commit to a two-state solution” and is striving to “prevent the creation of a Palestinian state.”
“The way to do that is to built settlements and make all of us – Arabs and Jews – live in one state,” said Peace Now chief Yariv Oppenheimer.