Jerusalem Municipality's legal advisor revealed what he said was an illegal request made by the city to Israel Police to delay the implementation of a court order calling for the evacuation of a Jewish structure located in east Jerusalem's Silwan neighborhood.
The Jerusalem Municipality's legal counsel Attorney Yossi Havilio says Mayor Nir Barkat and the city's Chairman Yair Maayan, requested they be permitted to employ an external attorney in the affair of the Jewish structure, known as Beit Yonatan.
Havilio wrote in a legal opinion that Barkat and Maayan last week appealed to the committee for the appointment of external lawyers, in an attempt to bypass the court order to have the Jewish structure evacuated and sealed off.
"Any involvement in the matter by them is illegal," Havilio wrote.
The municipality confirmed that the process is in motion, but attributed it to the deputy mayor: "Chairman of the local Construction and Planning Committee Kobi Kahalon filed a request to the committee for the appointment of an external legal advisor, in hopes of receiving legal assistance regarding the city's new planning policy in Silwan," the city said.
The seven-story structure, known as Beit Yonatan, was built in the Palestinian neighborhood Silwan by the nationalist association Ateret Cohanim in 2004 without the necessary permits. Jews belonging to Ateret Cohanim currently reside there. A court order calling for the building's evacuation was issued three years ago.
Barkat, however, is not interested in having the building sealed off. In a letter sent to State Prosecutor Moshe Lador, the mayor wrote, "The order could create serious problems the day after it is sealed off." He said that talks he held with police sources revealed that "there is serious concern that the day after it is sealed off it may be invaded by Jews and/or Arabs, which could lead us to an unnecessary point of friction."
The mayor revealed an alternative plan which includes a new order in Silwan, in which construction of buildings up to four stories high will be approved, along with whitewashing a significant portion of the illegal structures in the area, including Beit Yonatan.
Havilio, who is backed by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and State Prosecutor Moshe Lador, hinted last week of an "illegal" appeal by Barkat to the Jerusalem District Police commander, asking the court order against the building not be implemented.
In his harsh legal opinion, the advisor continues to make accusations of irregularities in the mayor's conduct in the matter.
"I believe the mayor's request must not be granted," Havilio wrote, "The appropriate situation would be that they mayor act according to the legal opinion of the municipality's legal advisor, all the more so when this opinion is backed by the head of the land laws enforcement department, the state prosecutor and the attorney genera.
"Turning to an external lawyer to assist the mayor against this opinion is wrong and inappropriate." Havilio noted, however, that there were no legal grounds to deny the mayor's request.
Havilio protested the mayor's direct involvement in the affair and said, "There is a court order to have Beit Yonatan sealed off and evacuated, and there is a legal opinion stating that the order should be implemented immediately. According to the opinion, the mayor, the director, or any other body cannot order or instruct that the order's implementation not be carried out or postponed."
The Jerusalem Municipality said in response: "The reform that was approved by the city council will enable re-planning of Silwan and Gan Hamelech, which includes an upgrade from two stories to four stories, permitting as many existing buildings as possible, adding land for public institutions and public needs, advancing appropriate public infrastructure for the neighborhood's needs and completing infrastructure such as sewage, roads, and more.
"An external legal advisor was needed after the city council adopted a detailed legal opinion that contradicts that of the city's legal advisor. The funding of external legal advisors, if needed, is done by the city's legal bureau in accordance with the law. The appointment, when approved, will be specific. It should be noted that according to the mayor's request, the city's comptroller is included in the entire process."