Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced Saturday that the evacuation of a Jewish building in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan known as Beit Yonatan will only be carried out parallel to the evacuation of the Arab Abu-Nab home – located in what was a Yemenite synagogue in the 1940's.
A statement issued Saturday evening says the mayor is relieving himself of all responsibility for Beit Yonatan, placing it instead on the Ateret Cohanim movement which housed the Jewish residents there.
"Barkat has coordinated with the police that if Ateret Cohanim members demand the government carry out evacuation orders applying to the Arab residents… then the sealing of Beit Yonatan will be carried out on the same day," the statement says.
The move, scheduled for the coming week, is expected to spark conflict due to the sensitivity of the presence of Jews in Silwan. Both homes – Jewish and Arab – are under evacuation orders, but Ateret Cohanim has filed an appeal for a stay of the order on Beit Yonatan.
Barkat has so far ignored court orders that state Beit Yonatan must be sealed immediately. "We will not discriminate in favor or against Jews. If we are not allowed to wait for a general arrangement… then both the orders for Arabs and Jews in Silwan will be carried out on the same date," the statement says.
Opposition member Meir Margalit, of the Meretz faction, responded to the statement by saying that the mayor was not actually behaving in an egalitarian manner. "Dozens of (Arab) homes have been destroyed while not a single Jewish building has been razed," he said.
"This announcement stinks of vengeance and pettiness and is aimed more at being liked by settlers than really performing justly. You cannot compare between settlers who built a home from the ground up to Palestinian refugees who have been living in the same home since the '40s. Barkat is playing with fire."
Farhi Abu-Dihab, a resident of the neighborhood, called the announcement "Barkat's Christmas present to Silwan".
"There is absolutely no connection between the two buildings. The mayor is once again pouring fuel on the fire instead of calming things down. Instead of supplying our needs and providing us with services such as hygiene and welfare he is dragging the entire region into unrest, sending bulldozers and lighting a fire. Of course the residents will respond to this, and I fear the response will be severe," he said.
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