WASHINGTON – In a rare criticism, the Bush administration said Wednesday that if Israel proceeds with construction of a settlement on the West Bank it would violate its peacemaking obligations.
But defending its construction plan, a spokesman for the Israeli embassy said “the settlement is not a new one.” It was legally established in 1982, housed an army unit and a school and has had civilians living there for several years, said spokesman David Siegel. The plan is to build within the confines of the existing settlement, he said.
A State Department spokesman, Gonzalo R. Gallegos, said, “The U.S. calls on Israel to meet its road map obligations and avoid taking steps that could be viewed as predetermining the outcome of future negotiations.”
“The establishment of a new settlement or the expansion of any existing settlement would violate Israel’s obligations under the road map,” he said.
Israel agreed to the road map in 2003. It was devised by the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia in an effort to guide Israel and the Palestinians into an agreement that establishes a Palestinian state.
No new settlement has been established on the West Bank in 10 years. The plan has drawn Palestinian and European expressions of concern.
The Bush administration rarely criticizes Israel’s actions and has gained Israel’s support for establishment of a Palestinian state.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to go to the Middle East next month to try to spur peacemaking between Israel and the Palestinians.