American and British government officials criticized Monday Israel for approving plans to expand the West bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim 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 Adumim, 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 Adumim 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 Adumim 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 Adumim,’ 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 Adumim as ‘a total defiance of the road map … and total defiance of Bush’s vision. Settlements and peace do not go together,’

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