(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A Jerusalem District Court judge on Thursday afternoon delayed her ruling on how to proceed with a court order to evacuate and seal Beit Yehonatan, a structure in the capital’s Silwan neighborhood that was built without the proper permits.
The case will essentially determine which body – the Jerusalem Municipality or the attorney-general – has the power to carry out court orders in the east Jerusalem neighborhood.
After hearing testimony from both sides in the case, Judge Nava Ben-Or asked for more time to review both parties’ claims before giving her ruling.
While the Attorney-General’s Office has insisted that the court force the Jerusalem Municipality to carry out the court order against the seven-story, Jewish-owned building in the predominantly Arab neighborhood, Mayor Nir Barkat has balked at such moves, and insisted instead that a wider solution be found for the hundreds of zoning violations that exist in Silwan.
In response to immense pressure from the attorney-general, the state prosecutor and his own municipal legal adviser to evacuate and seal the structure, Barkat has announced he would carry out the court order against Beit Yehonatan, but then begin carrying out a slew of demolition orders against Arab-owned homes that were also built illegally in the neighborhood.
In the meantime, Barkat and the local planning committee have put on hold all punitive measures against illegal buildings in Silwan and elsewhere in Jerusalem, until an overall city plan is approved.
In a brief to the High Court of Justice on the issue, Barkat said that there were 115 court orders regarding illegal construction in Silwan.
“The state’s insistence on implementing only one judicial order out of 115 is inconsistent with the obligation to maintain uniform and equal treatment toward all members of the the public,” he said.
Beit Yehonatan representatives have pointed out that in the past, the Attorney-General’s Office has held an opposing view that was upheld by the High Court of Justice. The court had decried the fact that municipal planning authorities were given the final say in executing demolition orders against illegal houses and could take account of planning, budgetary, security and other considerations in their decisions.
Beit Yehonatan supporters have said that the attorney-general’s
insistence that the municipality immediately begin implementing a
single court order out of all the similar orders pertaining to houses
in Silwan smacks of political motivations and discrimination against
the neighborhood’s Jewish residents.
“Will the district court see fit to uphold the High Court’s ruling?”
read a press release from Beit Yehonatan representatives sent out on
Thursday. “Or will it decide that [the ruling] only applies when it
comes to not demolishing Arab homes, and not in relation to sealing a
It further asked, “Will Nava Ben-Or, who comes from years of working at
the Attorney-General’s Office, be able to rule against the
attorney-general’s position?”Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.