Israel's plan to construct a new settlement named Maskiot in the Jordan Valley drew rare criticism Wednesday from the United States and the European Union.
The community was first founded as a "Nahal" military outpost and is currently supposed to absorb 30 families who were evacuated from Gaza last summer and to be turned into a normal civilian community.
Gonzalo R. Gallegos, a US State Department spokesman, said that If Israel goes ahead with the plan it would violate its obligations under the Road Map for peace.
"The US calls on Israel to meet its Road Map obligations and avoid taking steps that could be viewed as predetermining the outcome of future negotiations," he said.
A statement issued by Finland, which currently holds the bloc’s presidency says that "The European Union expresses its deep concern at the news that the Israeli government has authorized the construction of the Maskiot settlement in the West Bank.”
Finland, which is known as a harsh critic of the settlement enterprise added in the statement that "Such unilateral actions are also illegal under international law and threaten to render the two-state solution physically impossible to implement.”
"This development would also mean the relocation of some of the Gaza settlers in the West Bank, something that the EU stated is not acceptable when it gave its support to the Gaza disengagement,” the EU said.
"Peace Now" chairman Yariv Oppenheimer said in response to the plans that "Israel is blatantly ignoring the US and the world. The decision to construct a new settlement is harmful to Israel in the international arena and brings renewed confrontation with the US."
Settlement sources say that former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced after the disengagement to turn the military outpost into a civilian community and settle 30 families who were evacuated from Gaza last year.
The sources added that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has supported the plan but the families have not moved in yet. According to the sources, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Tuesday that the families are clear to move into the community.
The construction will be funded by the reparation money the evacuees received from the government. At the present time, only pre-military yeshiva students currently live in the outpost in temporary caravans.