Israeli officials are moving forward with a plan to build a small new settlement in the West Bank, sparking dismay from the US and outrage from the Palestinian Authority.
Honestly, this is unacceptable behavior by Israel. It is a simply gesture of bad faith, and Palestinians have every right to be upset about it. The new settlement is to be built in the Jordan Valley, an arid, sparsely populated region which has significant strategic value for Israel as a buffer zone between it and Jordan. Israel claims the right to continue building settlements in areas which it will keep under a final status agreement.
No dice, in my opinion. First of all, that's putting the cart before the horse: we don't know the borders of a final agreement until it's, you know, agreed upon. Second, even if this location does end up remaining inside Israel's jurisdiction, what's the rush? Build the new town then -- don't thumb Palestinians in the eye during delicate negotiations. The fact that the settlement is so small -- only 20 houses -- makes it even worse, because it's basically a symbolic middle finger.
The Washington Post article says that Israel is making this move because they assume the current US government is too weak to stop them. They may be right, and I doubt that George W. Bush has the will to prove them wrong. Nonetheless, this is the wrong move at the wrong time, and the US needs to do its best to derail it.