Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz approved construction in Maale Adumim, the largest settlement in the territory occupied by Israel since 1967.
He also approved preparatory steps for the expansion of the smaller settlements of Bracha and Nokdim.
The decision violates the roadmap peace plan, under which Israel agreed to freeze all settlement building.
Israel has nevertheless continued to expand settlements since the road map was approved in June 2003.
...Mr Mofaz made the decision last week while he still was campaigning to become the new leader of the Likud party.
Since then, however, he has left Likud to join Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new Kadima party.
The defence minister said he was leaving Likud because of what he called right-wing extremists within the party. (emphasis added)
[the] transformation in the Israeli political system is not based, as many think, on a shift by Sharon from the right to the center, but rather on a shift of the center toward Sharon, whose real place is still in the Israeli right-wing camp.
As is Mofaz's. It's a very bad sign for Israeli politics, and for the peace process, that such longtime settlement supporters and irredentists as Sharon and Mofaz can be considered "centrists."