After Amona, Barkat Seeks to Demolish Illegal Arab Homes

YERUSHALAYIM -
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Yerushalayim Mayor Nir Barkat. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

True to his word, Yerushalayim Mayor Nir Barkat has instructed the legal adviser to the municipality to begin proceedings for the demolition of 14 illegally built structures, which are occupied by four extended families in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of the city. The buildings are located on land belonging to the Official Receiver of the State, an office that administers property on behalf of absentee owners.

The city has in the past sought authorization to demolish the buildings, but the courts have stayed their verdict. Now, in the wake of the authoritative verdict on the matter provided in the Amona case, the municipality is arguing that there is no longer any justification for delaying the demolition.

In a letter earlier this week to State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit, Yerushalayim Mayor Nir Barkat said that a decision by the High Court to move ahead with the demolitions of homes in Amona would give the city a green light to demolish homes in his city illegally built by Arabs on state land and privately owned Jewish land. “I believe it would be proper to implement an arrangement whereby the Amona residents should be able to remain in their homes, since this is a settlement that has been on the ground for 20 years,” Barkat wrote. “It has come to my attention that the legal department has determined that there are similar instances in Jerusalem, especially in Arab neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city, where homes were illegally built on Jewish-owned land. According to the law that would apply to Amona, the city would be obligated to evict thousands of Arab families and demolish their homes.”

The letter was written before the court decided on Wednesday to deny the state’s request for a seven-month delay of the demolition of homes in Amona, and to move ahead with the demolitions, which are supposed to take place by the end of the month. Now that the court has decided that the demolitions will take place, Barkat said that he intends to move forward with his demolition plans. In a statement, the Yerushalayim municipality said that “Mayor Barkat has asked State Attorney Mandelblit to assess the implications of the Amona decision on the city. There are many cases in Jerusalem that are identical to the situation in Amona, where Arabs have built homes on privately owned or municipal land and have lived there for decades. Obviously we cannot have a situation where there is one law for Arabs and another for Jews.”