Antonio Guterres
Antonio GuterresReuters

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday joined in on the criticism of Israel, following the decision to advance the planning of 4,500 new housing units in Judea and Samaria.

A statement from Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for Guterres, said in a statement that the Secretary-General “is deeply troubled by yesterday’s decision by the Israeli Government to amend settlement planning procedures. The changes can be expected to expedite the advancement of Israeli settlement plans in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. He is also deeply alarmed by the anticipated advancement next week of over 4,000 settlement housing units by Israeli planning authorities.”

“The Secretary-General reiterates that settlements are a flagrant violation of international law. They are a major obstacle to the realization of a viable two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace. The expansion of these illegal settlements is a significant driver of tensions and violence and deepens humanitarian needs. It further entrenches Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory, encroaches on Palestinian land and natural resources, hampers the free movement of the Palestinian population, and undermines the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and sovereignty,” added Haq.

Guterres also “urges the Government of Israel to halt and reverse such decisions and to immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and to fully respect its legal obligations in that regard. He further calls for concrete steps to be taken to implement the commitments made in the Joint Communiqués in Aqaba, Jordan and Sharm al-Sheik, Egypt, respectively,” concluded the statement.

On Sunday, the United States criticized Israel’s decision to advance the new construction, saying it is “deeply troubled” by it.

“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,” said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller in a statement.

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.