US State Department
US State DepartmentiStock

The United States on Sunday criticized Israel’s decision to advance the planning of over 4,500 housing units in various communities in Judea and Samaria, saying it is “deeply troubled” by it.

“We are similarly concerned by reports of changes to Israel’s system of settlement administration that expedite the planning and approvals of settlements,” said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller in a statement, referring to the regulations that would see the approval process for construction in Judea and Samaria be reduced to just two stages from the current six stages.

“As has been longstanding policy, the United States opposes such unilateral actions that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve and are an obstacle to peace. We call on the Government of Israel to fulfill the commitments it made in Aqaba, Jordan and Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt and return to dialogue aimed at de-escalation,” he added.

Miller’s comments came after the agenda for the Supreme Planning Council for Judea and Samaria, which includes the approval of the new housing units, was published.

The published plans join the nearly 10,000 units published at the previous meeting of the Supreme Planning Council. With the new plans, more housing units have been approved in the first six months of 2023 than at any other six-month period of the last decade.

The plans for the new housing were made public as Assistant US Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Barbara Leaf, was to arrive in Israel for a visit.

Leaf is expected to meet with senior Israeli political and military leadership “to discuss areas of mutual interest, including expanding and deepening Israel’s integration into the Middle East and constraining Iran’s destabilizing behavior,” the State Department said on Saturday.

In February, Israel announced the construction of 9,000 new housing units in Judea and Samaria. That announcement, too, was met with criticism in Washington, which was reportedly mulling steps it could take against Israel in response.