Knesset panel tours Beit Yehonatan as Barkat calls process of dealing with demolition orders for illegal structures flawed.
By ABE SELIG
Members of the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee paid a visit to Beit Yehonatan in Silwan on Tuesday morning, where they called for an end to the “non-implementation” of demolition orders against hundreds of illegally-built homes in the east Jerusalem neighborhood and a halt to the “discriminatory manner” in which the State Attorney’s Office had pursued court orders against the seven-story, Jewish-owned structure.“It’s discriminatory and it’s a finger in the eye of the Jewish presence here,” MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) said of State Attorney Moshe Lador’s insistence that a court order to evacuate and seal the building be implemented immediately.“There are hundreds of illegal buildings in Silwan, yet the insistence to deal only with Beit Yehonatan is part of an effort to make east Jerusalem ‘Judenrein.’ It’s a finger in the eye of the Jewish presence here,” he added.Other MKs also present during the tour included MK Gideon Ezra (Kadima), who said that he wanted to see one law applied to all the buildings in the area.Ezra, a former deputy-director of the General Security Service, also said that a large number of the residents of Silwan were “living there illegally” and had come from Hebron, Ramallah and other West Bank cities for financial reasons.Interior Committee Chairman MK David Azoulay (Shas) told reporters that the large number of illegal buildings in the area was the result of “years of inaction” by the State Attorney’s Office and other relevant city bodies who had “dozed off on their watch.” “And such is simply unacceptable, in the country’s capital no less,” he added.After the tour concluded, the Interior Affairs Committee convened at the Knesset where Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat presented municipality data showing some 20,000 illegal structures throughout east Jerusalem and 657 in Silwan alone.Barkat also told the committee that the process of dealing with demolition orders in east Jerusalem was “flawed” and that he hoped to come to an agreement with the residents of the neighborhood that would allow for building to be regulated in the area once and for all.One of the ideas broached by Barkat during the committee meeting was the possibility of legalizing structures in Silwan up to four stories, which, according to the mayor, would retroactively legalize more than 90 percent of the illegally-built homes in the neighborhood.“I want to create one law for everyone,” Barkat said. “And I have approached the state attorney [Moshe Lador] and asked for support in this matter. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten that support.“The city’s legal system is not creative, and [Lador] has instructed me to begin carrying out demolition orders. I have stated that not only will I do this under protest, I will do it in a uniform manner.”Barkat’s comments were seen as a further hint of his readiness to carryout dozens of demolitions in Silwan if Lador and city attorney YossiHavilio – with whom the mayor has struggled over demolition orders andrezoning plans in east Jerusalem – continue to reject his plans.The Postreported on Sunday that Barkat had instructed his staff to begincoordinating with police for the possibility of such demolitions takingplace, although sources within the municipality have said that themayor still hopes to find a constructive solution in Silwan andthroughout east Jerusalem.
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