The number of house demolitions in east Jerusalem has greatly decreased over the
past two years due to intense pressure from abroad, city councilors from across
the political spectrum told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
municipality, on the other hand, credited the drop in demolitions with a
slowdown in illegal building, a spokeswoman said.
State looking to authorize illegal settler buildings
Barak said blocking project to link Givat Ze’ev to J’lem
Shepherd Hotel injunction dismissed; demolition continues
“There are thousands of
buildings with demolition orders against them that have already been
conclusively decided by the court, and they need to carry them out; it’s not at
all connected to a slowdown in illegal building,” said City Councilor Elisha
Both Peleg and left-wing City Councilor Meir Margalit
(Meretz) agreed on the cause of the demolition slowdown: foreign
“Right now house demolitions are at the minimum that is
possible – there’s only been four or five demolitions so far this year,” said
Margalit, who is co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
(ICAHD). “Why? Because the Americans came and said, This time, really, stop, no
excuses, no stories.”
Margalit traces the pressure back to Secretary of
State Hilary Clinton’s visit in November 2009.
Peleg sent a letter to
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the beginning of the week demanding that
house demolitions be resumed.
“It’s a state problem. It’s the same thing
with Jewish building in east Jerusalem – the European Union and the United
States and the leftists jump on it and say it will damage, heaven forbid, the
peace process,” he said.
“Obeying the law – that’s damaging the peace
process?” According to the ICAHD, 27 inhabited structures were demolished by the
authorities last year and 69 were demolished in 2009, compared with 104 in 2008.
In the years 2000 to 2007, an average of 98 inhabited structures were destroyed
But in 2008 and 2009, the number of east Jerusalem Arab
residents demolishing their own homes greatly increased, said
Because “self-demolitions” are not carried out by the
authorities, they are not reported to the media or recorded as demolished
structures in municipal records.
According to information from the
Interior Ministry, which does keep track of self-demolitions, there were 70 in
2010, well over twice as many as were destroyed by the
Families choose to demolish their own homes when the fine
they are forced to pay for demolition is higher than the cost of the demolition
itself. The fine is imposed by courts, which examine each case individually and
determine a fine based on the size of the structure or other extenuating
circumstances, such as repeat offenders, a municipal spokeswoman
The municipality refused to reveal the average fine. Margalit said
he had heard of figures approximating NIS 200 per square meter. Most of the
demolished structures are between 100 and 150 sq.m., representing a fine of NIS
20,000 to NIS 30,000 for the family – on top of the costs of relocating and
paying for alternative housing.
There are two types of housing demolition
orders – judicial orders, which have gone through the court system, and
administrative orders, which come from local authorities. Jerusalem’s Building
Supervision Department posts 270 demolition notices per week on apartments all
over Jerusalem, or around 14,000 per year, a spokesman told the Post
Owners can be given demolition notices for everything from enclosing a balcony
to building an entire house.
Under a judicial order, homeowners can be
charged for the cost of the demolition because they supposedly have an
opportunity to appeal. In cases where a police presence or other security
measures are needed, the owner can technically be charged for the additional
costs, though this is rare.
Earlier this year, the Knesset heard the
first reading of a law that would force owners who received administrative
orders to pay for the demolition as well. Activists say that fear and confusion
surrounding the discussion of the new law could convince families to demolish
their own homes rather than pay a fine. In the past few years, roughly a quarter
of the demolition orders have been administrative.
The fines are big
business for the municipality. Last year, the city collected NIS 14.3 million in
fines from building infractions, ICAHD found. In 2004, the decade’s most active
year regarding demolitions, the municipality collected NIS 34
There are between 20,000 and 30,000 illegal structures in east
Jerusalem, which represent about a third of all the homes there. According to
ICAHD, half have demolition orders pending against them.
Comptroller’s report released in October blamed decades of lax enforcement for
the explosion of illegal building in east Jerusalem.
East Jerusalem Arab
residents complain that they are almost unanimously denied building
“People think if there are fewer homes for Palestinians, there
will be fewer Palestinians,” said Margalit.