The Israeli Ambassador to Washington Dani Ayalon said the decision to build the new 600 housing units in Ma’aleh Adomim, east of Jerusalem, is not a violation of previous commitment that Israel has taken a year and a half ago, Israeli sources reported.

The same source said Ayalon confirmed to William Burns, the US Secretary of State’s assistant, that Israel is still committed to the promises the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has made to the US President George W. Bush.

Ayalon said that in a meeting that joined him with Burns in Washington on Tuesday.

Israeli sources claim that the understandings with the Americans allow expanding the major settlement blocs of which Ma’aleh Adomim is a part. Besides, ‘final borders of the settlements were not defined’ the source said.

American and British government officials criticized Monday Israel for approving plans to expand the West bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adomim against the terms stated in the road map peace plan.

Israeli Defense Ministry confirmed Monday granting permission to build 600 new housing units in Ma’aleh Adomim, east of Jerusalem.

Israeli political sources reported that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave clearance for the housing two months ago.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Monday that both Ma’aleh Adomim and the settlement bloc of Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, will be included within the West Bank separation wall. (Army Radio)

‘I see Ma’aleh Adomim as part of Jerusalem that will form territorial contiguity with the capital,’ Mofaz said.

The approved building plan also violates U.S.-Israel understandings in which Israel committed not to build beyond existing construction lines in West Bank settlements.

‘We look forward to Israel abiding by that commitment and sticking by the road map,’ said U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli.

British Foreign Office Minister Baroness Symons urged Monday Israel to freeze all settlement activity.

‘I am very concerned by reports that the Israeli government has decided in principle to build 600 new housing units in Ma’aleh Adomim,’ she said.

‘I urge the Israeli government, in accordance with phase one of the road map that Ariel Sharon agreed to last year, to freeze all settlement activity including the natural growth of existing settlements, and to dismantle all outposts built since 2001.’

Palestinian minister Saeb Erekat described the Israeli government approval of expanding Ma’aleh Adomim as ‘a total defiance of the road map … and total defiance of Bush’s vision. Settlements and peace do not go together,’

Ma’aleh Adomim is one of the large West bank settlements that Sharon plans to annex to Israel.