Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has strongly criticised Israel’s decision to establish a new settlement deep inside the West Bank, expropriate additional West Bank territory as ‘state land’ and build another 2,000 units in existing settlements.

Johnson, who was joined in anger by other leading European politicians, said the Israeli plans were being made “in spite of significant international concern” and asked the Israeli authorities not to go ahead.

He said: “The UK strongly condemns the Israeli government’s decision… These announcements are contrary to international law and seriously undermine the prospects of two states for two peoples.”

He added: “As a strong friend of Israel, and one prepared to stand up for Israel when it faces bias and unreasonable criticism, I urge Israel not to take steps such as these, which move us away from our shared goal of peace and security and make it harder to achieve a different relationship between Israel and the Arab world.”

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Israel had declared that it “intends to restrict significantly future settlement construction in view of advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace” but that “affirmative steps are badly needed”.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres expressed his “disappointment and alarm” at the Israeli plans to build a new settlement near Nablus, the first in almost two decades. The new settlement will re-house illegal Jewish settlers from the Amona outpost, which was demolished on the orders of an Israeli court.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu painted a picture of restraint “out of consideration to [U.S.] President Donald Trump’s position”.

He said: “Israel will take necessary steps to minimise the expansion of developed area beyond the footprint of existing settlements in Judea and Samaria and exhibit considerable restriction, to allow the progression of the peace process.”

Despite suggesting that the plans represented a goodwill gesture to Trump, who has asked that Israel slow construction, Netanyahu said Israel’s new settlement policy will mean new building work to beef up existing settlements “as much as possible”.