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Comes news this morning, that the Israeli government plans to build still more homes in the West Bank, in violation of its "pledges" to the United States to stop settlement expansion.

What is even more disturbing than this slap in the face to the Palestinians, the U.S., and the peace process, is that the announcement comes as Condoleezza Rice's plane touches down in Tel Aviv, on her way to a meeting with Israeli PM, Olmert.

More after the fold.

This is not the first time Israel has announced settlement expansions as Rice or some other U.S. State Department official arrives in Israel to discuss peace. It makes me wonder what their message is. Is it, "we will do whatever we damned well want to, despite whatever you say" kind of thing, or is it simply a "middle finger" to the entire peace process? Regardless, it is an affront not only to the U.S., but to everyone who seeks peace in the region.

No doubt, Rice will say nothing to the Israelis about this. Past admonishions have resulted in less than nothing. Israel appears bound and determined to scuttle whatever chances remain for seeking a peace agreement, and at the very least, the scuttling of the "road map" peace agreements.

The AP article about the matter goes on to say:

The Israeli government on Monday published plans to build 44 homes in Israel's largest West Bank settlement, violating a pledge to the United States as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in the region on a peace-seeking mission. A senior U.S. official, meanwhile, said Rice will attend a three-way summit with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in the coming weeks.

The Housing Ministry published ads in Israeli newspapers asking developers to bid on the construction project in Maaleh Adumim, a community of more than 30,000 people outside Jerusalem.

Freezing settlement construction in the West Bank is a key element of the long-stalled "road map" plan for Mideast peace, which both Israel and Rice championed vigorously in public statements during her three-day visit.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, who was traveling with Rice, said he wasn't aware of the bid. But he added: "Our policy hasn't changed."

In a published interview, Rice expressed general U.S. displeasure with settlement expansion.

Yeah right. Rice expressed "general displeasure"? What b.s. Was this perhaps before, or after she told Olmert of U.S. plans to attack Iran, or maybe giving Israel approval for said same?

Still more from the article:

"We are very committed to the road map and to the obligations there, and I talk all the time to the Israelis about their activity that is prohibited by the road map," Rice told the Palestinian daily Al-Quds.

Palestinians, who are to gain independence under the peace plan, vehemently oppose any Jewish settlement in the West Bank, claiming all of the territory as part of their future state.

"Building 44 new houses in the Maaleh Adumim settlement is one more Israeli violation of signed agreements with the Palestinians," said Khalil Tofakji, a former Palestinian negotiator, referring to accords signed over the years in Oslo and Cairo.

Kobi Bleich, the Israeli Housing Ministry spokesman, said the timing of the bid's publication was motivated by professional considerations, and had no connection to the visit of foreign dignitaries.

The rest of the article can be found here:

This is the last straw for me, a longtime Israel supporter. Israel's neocons are obviously in 100% control of the country, and are bound and determined to scuttle peace processes of any kind, at least those that do not adhere 100% to their ideology and demands.

With the Bush regime neocons in control of our foreign policy, and Israel's Likudniks in control of theirs, there is no hope for peace in the region.

How disheartening to realize that madmen control the situation, here, and there, And further, to know all we have to look forward to, as long as they remain in power, is World War III...

Originally posted to Hornito on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 06:29 AM PST.

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