'J'lem sovereignty means equal municipal services for Arabs'

By BY ABE SELIG
February 11, 2010 06:11

“My view is that Jerusalem must remain unified and that we need to establish full sovereignty throughout the city.”

4 minute read.



Jerusalem Councilman Yakir Segev

Yakir Segev 311 Ariel 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Jerusalem City Council member Yakir Segev has a lot on his plate these days.

In charge of the municipality’s portfolio for east Jerusalem, he has seen his jurisdiction in the headlines nearly daily, and a number of issues within his domain – building rights in Silwan and house evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, to name a few – thrust into the international limelight.

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Speaking to The Jerusalem Post in his city hall office on Wednesday, Segev, 32, who joined the city council as member of Nir Barkat’s Jerusalem Will Succeed Party when Barkat was elected mayor in November 2008, elucidated his vision for the capital’s eastern neighborhoods, and his wider outlook on the future of Jerusalem.

“My view is that Jerusalem must remain unified and that we need to establish full sovereignty throughout the city,” Segev told the Post.

“But that means providing full, quality municipal services to the residents of east Jerusalem,” he continued, “and one of the first things we can do on that front is resolve the issue of illegal building there. To do that, however, we’re going to have to think ‘outside of the box.’”

In that vein, Segev said he supported Barkat’s plan to re-zone parts of the southeast Silwan neighborhood, which would retroactively approve building permits for about 90 percent of the illegal construction there, both Arab and Jewish.

“I believe that it’s a courageous move and the correct thing to do,” he said. “The problem [in Silwan] cannot be solved by demolitions.”

However, Segev said, Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s efforts earlier this week to bring the matter of Beit Yehonaton – a Jewish-owned building in Silwan built without the proper permits and slated for eviction – to the Jerusalem District Building and Planning Committee for a vote on the building’s status next week, was short-sighted, and did not allow for the overall problem of illegal construction in the neighborhood to be dealt with efficiently.

“The entire issue needs to be resolved within the framework of a final plan, not just Beit Yehonaton,” Segev said. “I’m a firm believer in the right for Jews to live in east Jerusalem, but in my opinion, [Yishai’s] initiative is actually harming the future of a Jewish presence there, because it deals with just one home and not the larger issues surrounding what is legal and what’s not. That’s what needs to be resolved here, and Beit Yehonaton would obviously be included in that.”

Segev added that Yishai’s efforts also harmed Barkat’s “90% plan,” which is not yet ready to be voted on in the district committee, and could be dealt a setback, depending on the outcome of the vote on Beit Yehonaton.

As for the chances of Yishai’s initiative winning the committee vote, Segev acknowledged the interior minister and Shas chairman’s prominence. However, he said, “it’s hard for me to believe that [this effort] will be able to stand up to [the previous] court rulings.”

Segev acknowledged that Silwan was not the only point of friction in east Jerusalem and told the Post that recent, the weekly protests in Sheikh Jarrah against the eviction of Palestinian families from homes were puzzling, in that “a civilian court has ruled on cases dealing with two groups of people – one group who happens to be Arab and the other Jewish – and presented its verdict.

“As far as a municipal policy, though,” Segev said, “there is no such thing at play in Sheikh Jarrah.”

“I’m not sure that it’s a great idea to rehash things that took place before 1948,” he added, agreeing that the Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah may very well have similar claims to properties in other parts of Israel.

“But it’s a historical fact that this was a Jewish neighborhood there before 1948, and I’m disturbed that there are so many people in Israel and throughout the world who don’t accept the legitimacy of Jews to live there, simply because they are Jews.”

Furthermore, Segev said, if the government or the municipality were to acquiesce to such a narrative, “it would mean that we’ve accepted the stance that east Jerusalem is occupied territory.”

Segev said he that Barkat’s tenure as mayor had thus far ushered in a “new atmosphere” in the capital and that residents “have a better feeling, a feeling that something good is happening.

“There are a lot of plans still under way, from which results have not yet been seen,” Segev added. “And while we still have much to do, I think Jerusalemites now feel that they have good leaders who are on their side.”


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