Israel has moved ahead with a plan to build a new settlement in the northern West Bank for the first time in 26 years, pursuing a project the United States has already condemned as an obstacle to peace efforts.Israel decides what is on and off the table for Israel, the Palestinians, and the United States, and Netanyahu clearly wants to remind Barack Obama who is in charge of this relationship.
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 foundation work.
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.
David Elhayani, head of the Jordan Valley regional council that oversees Maskiot, confirmed to Reuters he had issued the tender last week for contractors to launch infrastructure work.
"It's a process that will take months, to prepare infrastructure before we can build. We are proceeding in an orderly fashion," Elhayani said.
Elhayani 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 necessary for the sake of national security, and woe to the administration that strays from this path."
Hint: It's not Barack Obama.