Gov´t Flip-Flop Freezes Ma´aleh Adumim Expansion

Two weeks after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced he will expand Ma'aleh Adumim, his deputy Ehud Olmert announced a freeze on the plan "until conditions are ripe."<BR><br/>

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Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, | updated: 16:36

Immediately after the expulsion of Jewish residents from the Gaza, Sharon stated, "I will build. This is something you will see in a short time." Sharon added that Ma'aleh Adumim, east of Jerusalem, "will be part of Israel forever." He also said he would build more housing in Ariel, a city in Samaria and several miles east of Tel Aviv.

His announcement set off an uproar in the Palestinian Authority (PA) because the expansion plan will prevent a contiguous north-south Arab link between Ramallah and Jerusalem, where the PA wants to establish the capital of a new Arab state.

Olmert's announcement on a freeze came one week after he spoke in Washington with American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who met the following day with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Likud).

The State Department refused to tell reporters whether Rice talked with Olmert and Livni about Sharon's building plans and dodged reporters' questions on the American position on the status of Ma'aleh Adumim. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack repeated President George W. Bush's statement in May that "any final status agreement or changes to the 1949 armistice line must be agreed to by both parties."

Reporters reminded McCormack that Bush also has said he supports Israel's claim to the area and asked, "Why would you object to Israel securing an area that you support Israel retaining?" The spokesman replied, "This is our position on the matter." He added, "I am sure [Rice and Livni] will touch on Israel's obligations under the roadmap."

Olmert explained the freeze on the building plans as temporary and that it was "absolutely clear" the project to build 3,500 more units will go ahead. "When the conditions are ripe, we will raise the issue with the Americans again. It is clear we will not do anything behind the back of the Americans," Olmert added.