Beit Yehonatan eviction order never mailed out

Apparent lack of coordination between city and police gives residents a respite.

beit yehonatan 311 (photo credit: AP)
beit yehonatan 311
(photo credit: AP)
The planned distribution of evacuation orders at Beit Yehonatan, a seven-story structure owned by Jews in the predominately Arab east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, was called off on Monday, as Jerusalem Police and the city’s municipality traded blame for an apparent breakdown in coordination.
While municipal inspectors were expected to arrive at the house on Monday morning to deliver the orders, which would have given the building’s residents seven days to vacate the property, inspectors said that the distribution had been called off due to “police instructions.”
Jerusalem Police however, responded in a statement saying, “Despite reports to the contrary, there was no coordination between the Jerusalem Municipality and police on Monday regarding the distribution of evacuation orders in Silwan. Any activity of this sort must be coordinated with the police, [and] this activity was not.” Speculation continued, however, that behind-the-scenes efforts were still being exerted to effectively legalize the building, which is named for imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
Beit Yehonatan has been at the center of a struggle between Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and State Attorney Moshe Lador. In late January, Lador had demanded that Barkat uphold a court order to evacuate the building and seal it, which Barkat refused to do.
City Attorney Yossi Havilio also joined Lador’s efforts to force Barkat to act, prompting the mayor to declare last week that he would evacuate and seal Beit Yehonatan, and then begin demolishing more than 200 illegally built Arab-owned homes in the neighborhood.
While that move was widely seen as a bluff tactic to halt Lador and Havilio’s demands, Havilio responded to Barkat’s assertions with a letter he sent to Lador last Friday, calling into question a number of the details contained in Barkat’s declaration.
Among other things, Havilio pointed out that many of the 200 demolition orders Barkat had referred to were not even within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, and instead were located in Beit Shemesh, Moshav Ora, Kibbutz Ramat Rachel and other surrounding areas.
Of some 40 demolition orders for different buildings in Jerusalem, Havilio said, 13 were in the western part of the capital.
Nonetheless, Barkat is expected to press on defiantly to advance a plan he floated in the Knesset last month, that would effectively legalize some 90 percent of the illegal building in Silwan, mainly by redefining the neighborhood’s zoning codes.
Monday’s apparent error on behalf of the municipality sent right-wing supporters of the eight families who live in Beit Yehonatan into Silwan’s narrow streets, singing and dancing out of sheer joy that the evacuation orders did not find their way to the building’s front door.
City Councilman Elisha Peleg along with Jerusalem Deputy Mayor David Hadari were among the supporters, and told reporters that they were pleased with the mix-up and hoped that the issue of illegal building in Silwan – for Jews and Arabs alike – be settled once and for all.
“We’re opposed to the eviction of Jews from their homes,” Peleg told The Jerusalem Post later on Monday. “And we would like to see this situation resolved without anyone having to be evicted.”