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Israel Delays Vote on New Settlements

FILE - A laborer stands on a synagogue under construction in the settlement of Ramat Shlomo November 4, 2014.

A Jerusalem official said Wednesday a committee had postponed a planned vote on permits to construct hundreds of new settler homes in occupied East Jerusalem.

Hanan Rubin, a member of the Jerusalem Planning and Housing Committee, said the vote was taken off the agenda for Wednesday at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The proposal involved 492 new homes in the Ramot and Ramat Shlomo neighborhoods located in areas Israel captured during the 1967 war.

The move comes hours ahead of a planned speech by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is expected to both lay out his view of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and address Israeli accusations that the U.S. was behind a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding an end to settlement building.

The resolution passed Friday condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as "a flagrant violation under international law," calling the construction an enduring obstacle to regional peace.

A Jewish settler covers herself from rain in Amona, an unauthorized Israeli outpost at the West Bank, east of the Palestinian town of Ramallah, Dec. 18, 2016.
A Jewish settler covers herself from rain in Amona, an unauthorized Israeli outpost at the West Bank, east of the Palestinian town of Ramallah, Dec. 18, 2016.

The council approved the measure 14-0, with the United States abstaining.

Russell Stone, American University Center for Israeli Studies professor emeritus, told VOA the important thing is that the U.S. for the first time did not use its veto power on this kind of issue.

"It represents increasing world opinion and American opinion that the settlement activity is counterproductive," he said.

Netanyahu government blames US

Netanyahu spokesman David Keys told MSNBC on Tuesday the government had information that shows "beyond a shadow of a doubt" the Obama administration actively helped craft the resolution.

He declined to offer specifics, saying "some of the information is sensitive, so I can't share it on live TV."

On Sunday, a visibly angry Netanyahu, speaking on national television, blasted the U.N. resolution and the U.S. abstention, calling the U.S. inaction a "shameful" swipe against Washington's traditional ally.

He said his immediate response includes the withholding of nearly $8 million in funding to unnamed institutions, and said "there is more to come."He did not elaborate, but later recalled ambassadors from New Zealand and Senegal, two of the resolution's four sponsors.

The prime minister also said he had ordered his foreign ministry to review within a month all of Israel's engagements with the world body.

Palestinians celebrate UN measure

Elsewhere in the region, Palestinians hailed the vote, with former Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat calling it "a clear and unanimous message" to Netanyahu that his policies will not lead to peace or security for Israel or Palestinians.

Hamas spokesman Fawzy Barhoum described the outcome of the U.N. ballot as "a vote for the right of Palestinian people [to live] on their land."

More than 500,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, in settlements that most world governments view as illegal.The Obama administration has called them "illegitimate."

Citing biblical connections to the land and modern day security concerns, Israel claims all of Jerusalem and the West Bank, territories seized during the Six-Day War of 1967.