Uri Ariel vows to tour east Jerusalem

Nation Union MK will make visit despite cancellation of official tour by Knesset state Control Committee.

MK URI ARIEL and City Councillor Yael Entebbe 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
MK URI ARIEL and City Councillor Yael Entebbe 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
National Union MK Uri Ariel vowed to tour east Jerusalem on Tuesday, despite the fact that the official Knesset state Control Committee tour of that part of the city was canceled.
“We heard in the committee the unacceptable testimony and the reports about illegal construction in the area, and about the scandalous, callous,and illegal interference of the state attorney and the Prime Minister’s Office in order to halt the organized planning process,” said Ariel, who is the chair of the committee.
He accused Netanyahu of “all talk and no action” with regards to halting illegal building and said he was determined to examine the illegal construction firsthand.
Both the coalition and the opposition must agree on a time in order for the committee to meet, and in this case the coalition opposed the tour. A source in the State Control Committee said the expedition was canceled because it is “uncomfortable” for the prime minister during the election period.
“They don’t want a tour that will bring up these issues that the Prime Minister’s Office is allowing illegal building,” he added. “If they won’t let us do it officially, we’ll do it unofficially, but these things will be uncovered.”
Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) said that it is standard procedure for committees to suspend meetings during the election season. The move had nothing to do with political considerations regarding the controversial subject matter, he said.
The tour was planned in a response to a stormy Knesset discussion in September over illegal building in east Jerusalem, and in Silwan in particular.
On Tuesday, Ariel will visit the Gan Hamelech (King’s Garden) project in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on the unofficial tour.
The project calls for the demolition of 22 out of 88 residential buildings in the neighborhood called al-Bustan – a recreation of the historical green area that could have housed King Solomon’s gardens or vineyards.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has adopted the King’s Garden plan as one of his pet projects. It includes an overhaul of the neighborhood with improved infrastructure and community buildings, as well as retroactive legalization of 75 percent of the building.
In September, Shmuel Golan of the State Comptroller’s Office – which monitors illegal building in east Jerusalem for its annual reports – said that the pace of new illegal construction had slowed almost to a stop in that specific neighborhood, but the city still needed to find a solution to the legally dubious status of most of the buildings in the area.
The last demolition in al-Bustan took place four years ago.
Barkat has said he will not allow any demolitions to take place because he is waiting for the final approval of the master plan for al-Bustan, which will retroactively legalize 66 buildings. The master plan still needs approval from the Interior Ministry’s District Planning and Building Commission.