House demoltion in east Jerusalem (R) 311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
The State Attorney’s office created a special investigative committee to examine why just 10 illegal structures in east Jerusalem were demolished last year, despite demolition orders against more than 1,000 buildings, the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel announced on Monday.
According to deputy mayor David Hadari (Habayit Hayehudi), the city served 1,200 demolition orders last year, but demolished just 10 structures. From the years 2000 to 2007, authorities demolished an average of 98 inhabited structures, according to the Israeli Coalition Against Housing Demolitions, which monitors demolitions across the country. The numbers started decreasing in 2009, Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat’s first year in office. In 2009, 69 structures were demolished, and 27 structures were demolished in 2010.
The investigative committee, headed by attorney Yariv Even-Haim, was formed in response to an inquiry by the Legal Forum into the large gap between illegal buildings slated for demolition and buildings actually demolished. Even-Haim stated in the letter that the committee will examine both the enforcement of demolition orders, as well as the city planning procedures. He will oversee a committee comprised of representatives from the Israel police, the Interior Ministry, the State Attorney’s Office, and the Jerusalem municipality.
“We are very pleased that the state attorney is facing reality which requires the creation of a special committee that will examine and monitor in a specific manner the enforcement for construction in Jerusalem, and that is due to the sub-par enforcement in Arab neighborhoods in east and north Jerusalem,” said Attorney Hila Cohen of the Legal Forum in a statement released by her office.
Last week, deputy mayor Hadari sent a scathing letter to Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonvitch slamming the “lack of control” in Jerusalem that enabled east Jerusalem to blatantly flout the planning laws. On Tuesday, Hadari welcomed the announcement of the special committee. “The state of Israel needs to help the Jerusalem municipality protect the law,” he said on Tuesday. “They’re putting handcuffs on the police and the city instead of the criminals. They say, ‘don’t demolish, we’re not going to give you escorts [for security reasons], because we don’t want there to be a racket around the world and condemnations,’” Hadari added.
City councilor Meir Margalit (Meretz), who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio and was one of the founders of ICAHD, vowed to do everything he could to dismantle the new committee.
“Not only will it bring us great opposition in the world at large, what’s worse is that it’s going to create a lot of damage in east Jerusalem,” he said. “It seems that there are people who are bothered that things have been quiet lately, that there are people who need a certain amount of blood. They’re like pyromaniacs who are addicted to fire in order to fulfill their needs,” said Margalit.
A Jerusalem municipality spokeswoman said the municipality is “prepared at any time” to carry out the demolition orders, but that “political leadership in the government does not allow police to carry out the demolitions.”
A State Comptroller’s report
released in October 2010 blamed decades of lax enforcement for the explosion of illegal building in east Jerusalem.