Peretz rescinds OK on Maskiot housing

EU, US: Initiative violates Israel's commitments regarding W. Bank.

jp.services2 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Defense Minister Amir Peretz has withdrawn his approval for the construction of 30 housing units for Gush Katif evacuees in the Maskiot settlement in the northern Jordan Valley, Israel Radio reported early Friday morning. After many months of debate, the Maskiot construction received final authorization two weeks ago, the first time the establishment of a new settlement had been approved in some 10 years. Work was scheduled to begin this week. Dubi Tal, head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, said that it appeared that the Labor primaries were more important than settling the Jordan Valley. "We received notification that the plan was frozen," Tal told Israel Radio. "It seems that a promise isn't such a promise." Tal said he intended to appeal to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who authorized the housing units in Maskiot, adding that he hoped that Olmert, unlike Peretz, would stand by his word. Maskiot, which is located off an isolated road, has been populated periodically since 1982. Currently, it is home to a few permanent residents and a small pre-army academy that houses 50 Orthodox men in fewer than a dozen small white buildings. The new homes would be constructed adjacent to the existing structures and would more than triple the number of structures on the site. Both the EU and the US have said that the initiative violates Israel's international commitments with respect to the West Bank. Tovah Lazaroff and Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.