Uri Ariel, Arie Eldad in Jerusalem 370.
(photo credit: LAHAV HARKOV)
National Union MKs Uri Ariel and Arieh Eldad slammed Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu for allowing illegal building to continue unabated, during a tour of
east Jerusalem on Tuesday.
Ariel is the chairman of the Knesset State
Control Committee, which has focused on illegal building in the Arab sector,
especially in east Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, in a series of meetings over
the past year.
Tuesday’s tour was planned for the entire State Control
Committee. However, all committee meetings must be approved and in this
instance, the coalition refused to approve the tour.
Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) explained that during elections most committees do not meet.
Sources within the State Control Committee said that the prime minister did not
want to bring attention to the issue because it is “uncomfortable.”
and Eldad vowed to pay a visit to the area in any case, though it was changed
from an in-depth tour through the neighborhoods with bulletproof vehicles to a
more general tour of Kidron River in Eldad’s own minivan with police
“Even though the coalition refused to come, we will continue to
follow this, we must obey the laws and we must have order,” Ariel said at the
beginning of the tour at the Sherover Promenade.
“The prime minister is
working to avoid every demolition in Jerusalem by hiding under the headline of
‘sensitivity.’” The committee focused on areas around the Kidron River,
including Silwan and the controversial King’s Garden (Gan Hamelech) project in
the Al-Bustan neighborhood.
The river starts in the east Jerusalem
neighborhood of Isawiya and runs all the way to the Dead Sea.
years, from the Mamalukes to the Byzantine to even the British, no one built in
the King’s Garden,” said Eldad. “Only under Israeli control, illegal building
has wildly deteriorated before our eyes.”
Eldad also called on Netanyahu
to enforce building law in east Jerusalem and to allow demolitions of illegal
structures to go forward.
In September, the State Comptroller’s Office,
which monitors illegal building in east Jerusalem for its annual reports,
testified before the State Control Committee about the situation
They said that the pace of new illegal construction had slowed
almost to a stop in Bustan, but the city still needs to find a solution to the
legally dubious status of most of the buildings in the area.
the city’s legal adviser, Amnon Merhav, the city has issued 35 house demolition
orders and an additional 24 buildings have been served with indictments to begin
the court process to determine their legal status in the neighborhood. The last
demolition in Bustan was four years ago.
Ateret Cohanim activist Asaf
Baruchi, who led the tour, said that much of the illegal building around Kidron
River began after Israel built a large overflow pipe in the area that kept the
river from flooding in 1991.
Arab residents argue that they are forced to
build illegally because the city does not approve construction permits for the