JERUSALEM, July 4 (Xinhua) -- Israeli leaders have approved the construction of 800 housing units in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, an official confirmed to Xinhua on Monday.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman approved the new construction on Sunday night.
According to the official, 560 units will be built in Ma'aleh Adumim, the largest Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, east of Jerusalem.
Another 240 units will be constructed in Ramot, Har Homa and Pisgat Ze'ev, all settlement neighborhoods in annexed East Jerusalem.
The decision was coupled with approval to build 600 housing units for Palestinians in Beit Safafa, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem.
The latter move was criticized by Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Ze'ev Elkin, of the Likud ruling party.
"Those who want to maintain a Jewish majority in the capital cannot promote construction for the Arab population only," Elkin wrote on his Facebook page.
Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper quoted a government official as saying that the approval for the construction in the Jewish settlements was made to "sweeten the pill" of the construction for Palestinians in Jerusalem and "in retaliation" for two Palestinian attacks that killed two settlers in the West Bank last week.
Israel seized East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East War, along with the rest of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It later annexed East Jerusalem and declared it as part of its "eternal and indivisible capital," a move that has never been recognized by the international community.
About 82 percent of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem live in poverty in densely-populated neighborhoods, according to a recent report by the Jerusalem Institute, an Israeli research center.
The expansion of the settlements is illegal under international law.