MKs: Demolish illegal construction in e. Jerusalem

On tour of Kidron Stream, National Union MKs Uri Ariel and Aryeh Eldad accuse Netanyahu of shirking demolitions

Uri Ariel, Arie Eldad in Jerusalem 370 (photo credit: LAHAV HARKOV)
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.
Coalition chair 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.”
Ariel 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 escort.
“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.
“For 3,000 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 there.
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.
According to 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 Arab sector.