The Jerusalem Municipality on Wednesday evening announced that Mayor Nir Barkat had agreed to carry out a court order to evacuate and seal Beit Yehonatan, a seven-story Jewish-owned structure built without the proper permits in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.

Barkat made clear his intention to do this in a letter sent on Wednesday to State Attorney Moshe Lador, who last week sent a letter to Barkat, demanding that he uphold the court order to evacuate and seal the building. Barkat had initially refused to do so.

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Nonetheless, in Barkat’s Wednesday response to Lador, the mayor made it clear that he was carrying out the order under “protest and heavy criticism,” and that while the city would act to evacuate and seal the Jewish-owned building in the predominately Arab area, more than 200 Arab-owned homes in Silwan built without the proper permits would be evacuated and demolished as well.

The move will also nullify a recent plan suggested by the municipality, which would change the status quo in the neighborhood with regards to building permits, and would have made both Beit Yehonatan and most of the illegally-built Arab homes in the area legal.

In his letter to Lador, Barkat reiterated that the municipality’s plan would have made it possible to reduce the disagreement and friction surrounding illegal construction in Silwan by nearly 90 percent, and that carrying out hundreds of demolition orders in the area instead would create a “high potential for conflict.”

Barkat also made it clear that the municipality would uphold the law without discriminating between Arabs and Jews.

“I am shouting in your ears that the enforcement policy in the city of Jerusalem as regards Beit Yehonatan is discriminatory, selective and lacks any real justification,” Barkat wrote in his response to Lador. “And the explanations that have been provided thus far are [not sufficient].”  
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