Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron
Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel MacronReuters

Five European countries issued a joint statement Friday morning condemning Israel’s decision to approve the construction of thousands of new housing units in Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria.

Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain criticized Israel for the move, expressing ‘deep concern’ and calling the new construction “counterproductive” and a ‘violation of international law’.

“We are deeply concerned by the decision taken by the Israeli authorities to advance more than 4,900 settlement building units in the occupied West Bank,” the five powers said in the joint statement.

“The expansion of settlements violates international law and further imperils the viability of a two-state solution to bring about a just and lasting peace to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is also a counterproductive move in light of the positive developments of normalisation agreements reached between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.”

“As we have emphasised directly with the Government of Israel, this step also undermines efforts to rebuild trust between the parties with a view to resuming dialogue. We therefore call for an immediate halt to settlement construction, as well as to evictions and to demolitions of Palestinian structures in East-Jerusalem and the West Bank.”

“We call for the full implementation of UN Security Council resolution 2334 with all its provisions. We emphasise that we will not recognise any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regards to Jerusalem, unless agreed to between the parties. The suspension of plans to annex parts of Occupied Palestinian Territories must become permanent. We call on both sides to refrain from any unilateral action and resume a credible dialogue, as well as direct negotiations on all final-status issues.”

Israel’s Higher Planning Committee, part of the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration which manages Area C of Judea and Samaria, granted approval Wednesday and Thursday to nearly 5,000 new housing units for Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria.

The decision to issue the permits ended an eight-month de facto freeze on approval for new housing units in Judea and Samaria.

On Thursday, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov slammed the Higher Planning Committee’s decision.

"The new settlement activity will undermine the achievement of the two-state solution that would put an end to the ongoing conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis," Mladenov said in a statement quoted by the Xinhua news agency.

"The construction of the settlements is illegal under international law, as well as it is one of the main obstacles to achieve peace in the region," he added.