Beit Yehonatan 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein sent a letter to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Thursday, saying that a date must be set for the evacuation of Beit Yehonatan.
Weinstein said the evacuation and sealing of the building in east Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood was an obligation that had been decided by the court.
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The attorney-general went on to say that the evacuation order’s implementation was not subject to Barkat’s considerations as the mayor of Jerusalem, and this should not be one of the criteria for a delay in the evacuation.
“It is also not subject to my considerations as the chief law enforcer in the state of Israel,” Weinstein explained.
“I can accept that enforcing the law is not just limited to evacuating and sealing off Beit Yehonatan; it also relates to other evacuation orders being enforced,” Weinstein said, referring to the standing evacuation order against the Abu Naeb family living in the Old Yemenite Synagogue down the street from Beit Yehonatan.
“I have asked that law enforcement officials make every effort to make sure that this evacuation is carried out, as well as other evacuation orders,” Weinstein added.
The municipality responded to Weinstein’s letter, saying that the city “respects the courts’ decisions and the instructions of the legal adviser.” Barkat said he would have “professional sources” look into the matter and report back with their recommendations for implementing the attorney-general’s directive.
Barkat has been backpedaling on evacuating and sealing the seven-story Beit Yehonatan since the court found it was illegal in 2004. Since then, the residents have engaged in a long legal battle, and each time, the court has ruled that the building is illegal.
The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, which is assisting in the legal battle, said it was “dumbstruck” by the letter.
“It can’t be possible that we’re fighting over the implementation of the judicial orders at Beit Yehonatan when there are dozens of illegal Arab buildings immediately surrounding it,” said the organization.
Though Barkat has typically tried to avoid implementing the court’s orders, he threatened to evacuate Beit Yehonatan last month when the right-wing Ateret Cohanim, which is responsible for Beit Yehonatan, tried to evict the Abu Naeb family. An agreement was eventually reached, and all the residents, both Jewish and Arab, stayed in their homes for the time being.
Since the attempted evacuation, the area has become even more tense than usual. On Saturday night, three border policemen were wounded and nine Arab youths were arrested after a rock-throwing incident.