Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office 25 December 2016 REUTERS/Dan Balilty/Pool

Israel on Wednesday (28 December) postponed the approval of applications of almost 500 new homes for Israelis in East Jerusalem. The decision comes ahead of US Secretary of State John Kerry's speech in he is expected to outline the Obama administration's plan regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict and the settlement building.

Jerusalem Planning and Housing Committee member Hanan Rubin said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked for the decision to be put off. "The prime minister said that while he supports construction in Jerusalem, we don't have to inflame the situation any further," he told Reuters.

Rubin added that 492 permits for building homes in the urban settlements of Ramat and Ramot Shlomo were up for approval.

The settlement is a part of the construction activity that the UN Security Council asked to put an end to on Friday.

The settlements are illegal according to international law and are considered a hindrance to peace by most countries. At least 570,000 live in Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem among more than 2.6 million Palestinians.

The United States abstained from voting on the Security Council resolution, which passed with 14 countries voting in favour and none against it.

A senior State Department official said on Tuesday that Kerry will address the abstention when he speaks at the State Department on Wednesday at 11am (1600 GMT). Kerry's speech will also address some misleading allegations by authorities in Israel that Obama administration drafted and forced the resolution to a vote.

Israeli guards fire tear gas at Palestinians dressed up as Father Christmas Reuters