Jan. 23 (UPI) -- The Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee has approved 671 new housing units in several occupied neighborhoods located beyond the pre-1967 border.
Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman said the move was a direct response to Donald Trump becoming the 45th president of the United States. Turgeman also serves as the chairman of the planning and building committee.
"I was told to wait until Trump takes office because he has no problem with building in Jerusalem," Turgeman told Israel Radio on Sunday. "The rules of the game have changed with Donald Trump's arrival as president. We no longer have our hands tied as in the time of Barack Obama."
Israel disputes accusations that settlements on Palestinian land drafted in the 1949 Armistice Agreements are illegal under international law.
Trump spoke by telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday and discussed "ways to advance and strengthen the U.S.-Israel special relationship, and security and stability in the Middle East," White House officials said.
In late December, the 15-member United Nations Security Council voted 14-0 to pass Resolution 2334, a condemnation of ongoing construction of Israeli settlements in disputed Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem. The United States abstained from voting, which Israel interpreted as President Barack Obama's approval.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Sunday said construction in east Jerusalem is designed to create a "unified Jerusalem."
"We have suffered eight difficult years of Obama, who pressured Israel to freeze building. Even though the Jerusalem municipality never froze building in the city, many times we were not given government approval, and sometimes homes were not put on the market because of U.S. pressure," Barkat said. "I hope that era is over, and that from now on we will continue to build and develop Jerusalem for the good of its residents, Jewish and Arab alike. We must strengthen our sovereignty over Israel's capital and create a unified Jerusalem."
The Obama administration regarded Netanyahu's support of Israeli settlements on occupied land as threatening the hope for a two-state solution.