Maskiot settlement
Photo: Courtesy of Peace Now

New settlement being built in Jordan Valley

Construction begins on 20 housing units in Maskiot settlement, intended for Gush Katif evacuees, moments before planned freeze

Work on a new settlement in the northern Jordan Valley began Sunday, in the midst of a public debate over the freezing of construction in the West Bank and Jerusalem.


The first stage of construction includes the completion of 20 housing units, intended for evacuees of the Shirat Hayam settlement.


The new settlement, Maskiot, was the site of an IDF outpost established in the '80s. In 2002 it was abandoned and a number of religious students began living there.


In 2005, following Israel's disengagement from Gaza, reports said a group of evacuees from Gush Katif would be moved to the area in order to establish Maskiot.


In December of 2006 Defense Minister Amir Peretz approved the construction of 100 housing units in the new settlement. The approval was condemned by many in the international community, and Peretz eventually rescinded his decision.


The evacuees were therefore placed in caravans in the area intended for Maskiot, and in 2008 construction there was once more approved by Defense Minister Ehud Barak.


Jordan Valley Regional Council issued tenders on the construction of 20 housing units just before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left for his US visit.


Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer said in response, "On the ground not only are the settlements being expanded, but new ones are being built. The discussed freeze has nothing to do with the reality on the ground."


Jordan Valley Regional Council Chairman David Alhiani told Ynet that Maskiot had nothing to do with the impending freeze on construction.


"These are old plans. In August of 2008 Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved the community and now we are building 20 units there. At this stage we are busy with the infrastructure," he said.


E1 groundbreaking ceremony barred

Meanwhile, the Ma'aleh Adumim Municipality petitioned the Supreme Court against the police, asking it order the department to explain its refusal to allow a groundbreaking ceremony for a new neighborhood in Sector E1.


Sector E1 links Ma'aleh Adumim with Jerusalem, and will be the location of the new Mevaseret Adumim neighborhood, whose construction was included in a zoning plan approved for the area back in 1999.


The municipality claimed the ceremony was intended to be an act of protest against the US' objection to settlement expansion, and that no de facto construction will begin. "Ma'aleh Adumim believes realizing E1's zoning plans is imperative to its development," said the petition.


The police barred the ceremony on orders from the West Bank Civil Administration head, but the petition claims that the order is "disproportionate."


"As far as keeping the peace, there can be no harm in having the mayor say this is a groundbreaking ceremony," said the petition. "This is nothing but a blatant attempt to impede freedom of speech."


Aviad Glickman contributed to this report  


פרסום ראשון: 09.06.09, 13:18
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