J'lem councilman says Interior Ministry wants to remove him
Meir Margalit calls probe into illegal construction political.
JERUSALEM CITY COUNCILMAN Meir Margalit Photo: melanie lidman
A fiery left-wing Jerusalem City Council member is accusing the Interior
Ministry of running a “McCarthy” campaign against him in order to remove him
from his position for political reasons.
Meir Margalit (Meretz) holds the
municipality’s east Jerusalem portfolio, and was one of the founders of the
Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions (ICAHD).
As part of their
activism, ICAHD volunteers rebuild homes that have been demolished by the state
due to their illegal status. Margalit estimates ICAHD has rebuilt 1,000 homes
across the country, including 200 in east Jerusalem.
On Sunday afternoon,
the Interior Ministry’s Building Inspection Branch summoned Margalit to answer
questions about his involvement with ICAHD’s rebuilding activities. Margalit
acknowledges he has been involved in rebuilding homes that were demolished, and
that his activity is illegal. But he accused the ministry of trying to bring him
to court to settle a personal vendetta, because he has used his international
connections to stop a number of demolitions at the last minute.
the first time they’re trying an activist for illegal building, and the first
time they’re building a portfolio on a city council member,” he said on
Margalit said he was not surprised the Interior Ministry targeted
ICAHD for an investigation, but he was taken aback that they had zeroed in on
“I think someone advised them to do this. This comes more from the
political direction than the professional direction,” he said. “We’re in the
McCarthy era, and it will get to everyone sooner or later.”
spokeswoman Efrat Orbach confirmed that Margalit is being investigated because
there are reasonable suspicion that he is involved in illegal
“Everyone has to obey the law, there are no exceptions,” she
Orbach said it is too early to tell if the investigations will lead
to a court case.
If the Interior Ministry believes it has enough evidence
to prove that Margalit broke the law through his involvement in ICAHD, it will
serve him with an indictment and begin the process for a court
Margalit said the municipality conducted a similar investigation
three years ago over his involvement in illegal building but the city’s legal
adviser, Yossi Havilio, advised against suing a sitting city council member.