Israel moves to expand settlement

JERUSALEM, May 18 (UPI) — Israel is moving to expand a West Bank Jewish settlement even as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, critics say.

The Israeli group Peace Now said the government Monday was conducting a contractors’ tour of the Maskiot settlement in the Jordan River Valley with the aim of adding more Jewish families there, even though the Obama administration opposes the building of more settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, Ynetnews.com reported.

Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer told the Web site the fact that the contractors’ tour coincided with Netanyahu’s trip to Washington was "an indication of the government’s plan to expand isolated settlements. This sends a clear message to the U.S. and the international community as a whole regarding the government’s plan to expand settlement construction."

Kadima Knesset member Shlomo Molla told Ynetnews, "The PM is slapping Obama in the face by expanding the settlement under the false pretense of natural growth."

But Jordan Valley Regional Council Chairman David Elhayani said the move to repopulate the area was made by last year by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, with some of the new families coming from evacuated Jewish settlements in Gaza.

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