Jerusalem Municipality announced Sunday that it would not seal off a Jewish building in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, after the right-wing organization that housed the residents there, Ateret Cohanim, withdrew a demand to evict Arab residents from a nearby building that was once a synagogue.
Court orders exist for the evacuation of both the Jewish Beit Yonatan and the Arab Abu Nab houses, and it is currently unclear when they will be carried out.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said Saturday evening that the sealing of Beit Yonatan would be contingent upon the removal of the Abu Nab family from its home, which was once Yemenite synagogue Ohel Shlomo.
Barkat's announcement has drawn criticism from Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who is expected to hold a special discussion on the subject this week – after repeatedly demanding that Beit Yonatan be evacuated immediately. Barkat might be required to attend the discussion in order to explain why the court orders are yet to be enforced.
'Delay of eviction is illegal'
Condemnation of Barkat's decision sounded from within Jerusalem as well; the Jerusalem Municipality's legal adviser, attorney Yossi Habilio, has called Barkat's actions illegal.
"The law, the court ruling and the instruction of the attorney general assert that the mayor, municipality director-general or any other official is not authorized to delay the enactment of a court order," Habilio wrote in a statement that was released on Sunday. "Any such instruction, for any reason, is against the law."
Habilio claimed that 2,000 police officers were mobilized in preparation for the evacuation of Beit Yonatan, which was scheduled for early Monday morning. He recently announced his resignation from the municipality because of his dispute with Barkat over core issues, including the contested Silwan building.
"Factors of personal interests cannot attempt to set Jerusalem aflame in such an irresponsible manner," Barkat responded to Habilios statement. "The issue must be treated with sensitivity in order to calm the spirits and preserve the coexistence in the city.
"The renewed planning that the municipality is promoting in Silwan, in agreement with the residents' representatives, will solve a large part of the problem and will eliminate the sources of friction that exist today," he added. "The municipality will continue to act in coordination with the police to carry out all of the warrants, according to our priorities."
'Barkat must think public is stupid'
Jerusalem Deputy Mayor David Hadari, who was involved in the negotiations between Ateret Cohanim and the municipality, expressed satisfaction from the turn of events. "We will continue to settle in all parts of the city, in the west and the east," he said. "I support law enforcement on all the illegal buildings in the east of the city, not only Beit Yonatan."
Jerusalem City Councilman Meir Margalit had a different take. "It was obvious that all of it was staged," he told Ynet. "Every month or two he looks for a different excuse not to evacuate Beit Yonatan, and after exhausting all the available legal procedures he has invented this story, that he is a righteous gentile that wants to implement the law in an equal manner.
"What's grave in this whole story is that he probably thinks that the public is stupid," he asserted.
In 2007, the Supreme Court ordered the residents of Beit Yonatan to withdraw from the building and pay a fine, a decision which they have since been battling with claims that if they leave the residence, it will be occupied by illegal residents.
They also say that forcing them to leave will place the only other Jewish residents of Silwan at risk. These claims have successfully postponed the court's evacuation orders until today, with Barkat also agreeing to delay the move.
Aviad Glickman contributed to this report
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