Meretz petitions High Court over Silwan Jewish house

Petition calls to order implementation of eviction decree for Beit Yehonatan in capital’s Silwan.

March 29, 2010 00:38
3 minute read.
An Israeli flag is seen running down the facade of

beit yehonatan 311. (photo credit: AP)


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The Meretz faction and former MK Ran Cohen on Sunday petitioned the High Court of Justice to order authorities to evict the occupants of Beit Yehonatan, in the capital’s southeast Silwan neighborhood, and seal up the building in accordance with a decision by Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court that was upheld by the district and Supreme Courts.

The petitioners also asked the High Court to issue an interim injunction preventing the organizers of an event scheduled to be held during Pessah in Beit Yehonatan from taking place.

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According to the petitioners, represented by attorney Gilad Barnea, the occupants of the house and Mayor Nir Barkat have done everything possible to avoid implementing the lower court decision and, two years after it was issued, the seven-story structure, built without a permit in an area where buildings are limited to two stories, is still inhabited.

This, despite the fact that former attorney-general Menahem Mazuz and State Attorney Moshe Lador ordered that the court ruling to be carried out by police and instructed Barkat not to interfere in a criminal matter.

In the magistrate’s court decision handed down on February 11, 2007, the judge ordered “all of the defendants [i.e., the occupants of the building] to stop using it, directly or indirectly, and to seal up all entrances to it, that is the entrance to the stairwell and every one of the doors of all the apartments.”

The judge added that if the defendants would not do so themselves, he authorized the municipality to do so instead.

The final decision upholding this ruling was handed down by the Supreme Court on March 30, 2008.

The petitioners listed a series of attempts by the occupants to buy time following the Supreme Court ruling. These included a request for a new trial, followed by a request to delay the execution of the decision and appeals against the rejection of the request. The last of these hearings took place in July 2008.

Immediately after Barkat was elected mayor on November 11, 2008, he gave orders to suspend all actions to implement the court order. When the municipal legal adviser, Yossi Chabilio, ordered Ophir Mai, the city official in charge of building inspection, to ask the police to provide backup for the eviction and sealing up of Beit Yehonatan, Mai replied, “I cannot send such a letter to the police as you have requested in view of the instructions I have received from the municipality director-general after he consulted with the mayor.”

Chabilio complained to the State Attorney’s Office that Barkat was obstructing the implementation of the ruling. Letters from Mazuz to the chief of police and from Lador to Barkat did not help. In response to Lador’s second letter ordering the mayor to desist from blocking the eviction of the occupants and the sealing of the building, Barkat grudgingly accepted the order “under sharp protest.” Nevertheless, the occupants remain in the building.

The petitioners also complained that despite the court order and the fact that building is illegal, the Ministry of Construction and Housing and the police provide protection to the Jewish occupants in the overwhelmingly Arab neighborhood. In 2010, they said, the budget allocation for security amounted to almost NIS 18 million.

Furthermore, police will provide protection for an event that is scheduled to be held during Pessah, in which Israelis are invited to visit Beit Yehonatan and a nearby building also inhabited by Jews. Because access to Beit Yehonatan is difficult, police will reportedly escort groups of 50 visitors each half hour.

The petitioners asked the court for an interim injunction ordering government and municipal authorities to prevent such a festival.

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