United Nations Secretary General António Guterres is disappointed and alarmed by Israel’s decision to build a new settlement in the West Bank, his spokesman said on Friday.
Israel’s Security Cabinet on Thursday approved the building of the first new settlement in the disputed territory in two decades, even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu negotiates with Washington on a possible curb of settlement activity. The announced settlement is to be for the evacuees of Amona, an outpost illegally built on privately-owned Palestinian land.
“The secretary general has consistently stressed that there is no Plan B for Israelis and Palestinians to live together in peace and security,” UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said in a statement.
“He condemns all unilateral actions that, like the present one, threaten peace and undermine the two-state solution,” he said.
The White House appeared more accommodating to Israel's plans for the new settlement, intended for some 40 families evicted from Amona, a West Bank outpost razed in February because it was built on private Palestinian land.
A White House official noted Netanyahu had made a commitment to the Amona settlers before Trump and the Israeli leader had agreed to work on limiting settlement activity.
Trump, who had been widely seen in Israel as sympathetic towards settlements, appeared to surprise Netanyahu during a White House visit last month, when he urged him to "hold back on settlements for a little bit."
The two then agreed that their aides would try to work out a compromise on how much Israel can build and where.
"The Israeli government has made clear that Israel's intent is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes President Trump's concerns into consideration," a written statement from the official said.
Following Thursday's announcement, Israeli officials said Netanyahu's security cabinet decided out of respect for Trump's peace efforts to limit construction in settlements to existing, built-up areas and not to expand construction beyond present boundaries.
The decision did not appear to be coordinated with Washington.
U.S. and Israeli officials completed a round of talks on the settlements last week without agreement, saying the discussions were ongoing, and the two sides have yet to announce any final understanding on the issue.
Sweden's UN Ambassador Olof Skoog, a member of the Security Council, said on Friday that the 15-member Security Council should respond to the latest announcement by Israel on settlements.
"The urgency of the situation and the deterioration on the ground might call for some sort of Security Council action, although we know that finding unity on this is not easy," he told reporters.
The UN Security Council adopted a resolution in December that demanded a halt to settlement building after the United States, Israel’s ally, abstained from the vote. Then President-elect Donald Trump and Israel had urged Washington to wield its veto.
Israel for decades has pursued a policy of constructing Jewish settlements on territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. Most countries view Israeli settlement activity as illegal and an obstacle to peace, though Israel disagrees.