The United Nations Middle East envoy reported, on Wednesday, that Israel had pushed forward plans to construct over 22,000 housing units in settlements, in the occupied West Bank, since a UN resolution reaffirmed their illegality three years ago.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said that of these 22,000, Israel has issued tenders for 8,000 housing units since December 2016.

In December 2016, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2334 reaffirming that Israeli settlements had “no legal validity”, violate international law and prevent any future political solution with the Palestinian Authority (PA).

“The numbers should be of serious concern to all those who continue to support the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state alongside Israel,” Mladenov said, during his report to the UN Security Council on the implementation of Resolution 2334.

UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres wrote in a report released, on Wednesday, that Israeli settlement expansion plans “must cease immediately and completely”.

“The existence and expansion of settlements fuels resentment and hopelessness among the Palestinian population and significantly heighten Israeli-Palestinian tensions,” Guterres said.

Guterres went on to say that the US administration’s decision in November to no longer consider Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank illegal was “inconsistent with international law”.

Resolution 2334 was adopted in the last days of then-US President Barack Obama’s administration, before Donald Trump was sworn into office. The US abstained from voting on the resolution – an unusual move given the country’s longstanding policy of vetoing any resolution targeting Israel.

But the Trump administration has made its opposition to the resolution clear.
US Ambassador to the UN Security Council, Kelly Craft said, on Wednesday, the resolution was “one-sided” and “unfairly critical of Israel”.

Palestinian Ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour, meanwhile, said: “Two words can summarize the reality for Palestinians: ‘confinement’ in Gaza and the West Bank and ‘expansion’ for Israeli settlements.

“The purpose of this policy is crystal clear: acquiring maximum Palestinian land with minimum Palestinians,” Mansour said.

Edited for IMEMC: Ali Salam