updated 12/27/2006 3:20:05 PM ET 2006-12-27T20:20:05

Israel's plan to construct a new settlement on the West Bank drew rare criticism Wednesday from the United States.

If Israel goes ahead, it would violate Israel's obligations under the “road map” for peacemaking, a State Department spokesman said.

"The U.S. calls on Israel to meet its road map obligations and avoid taking steps that could be viewed as predetermining the outcome of future negotiations," the spokesman, Gonzalo R. Gallegos, said.

Israel agreed to the road map in 2003. It was devised by the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia in an effort to guide Israel and the Palestinians into an agreement that establishes a Palestinian state.

The Jewish settlement would be the first new one established on the West Bank in 10 years. The plan has drawn Palestinian and European expressions of concern. Other settlements have been expanded.

The Bush administration rarely criticizes Israel's actions and has gained Israel support for establishment of a Palestinian state.

Opponents of Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate president of the Palestinian Authority, have criticized his cooperation with Israel in trying to get peace talks started. They have accused him of yielding to a U.S.-Israeli approach.

Gallegos said, "We are seeking an explanation from the Israeli government regarding this development."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to go to the Middle East next month to try to spur peacemaking between Israel and the Palestinians.

The new settlement, approved by Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz, calls for construction on the site of an Army base in the Jordan valley.

By contrast, Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has endorsed Palestinian statehood and said he was agreeable to a large-scale Israel pullback on the West Bank to make way for a state.

Gallegos said the road map states "progress will require and depend upon the good-faith efforts of the parties."

He declined to say whether Israel's plan was an expression of bad faith.

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