Netanyahu's spin: Illegal structures in Arab sector to be demolished
The prime minister instructed the Public Security Ministry to demolish illegal structures in the Arab sector and to apply Israeli law equally to all citizens; but many in the political system say this has been existing policy for some time.
Sources close to Netanyahu said on Thursday that the prime minister has held two meetings on this issue and instructed the relevant bodies to carry out the demolition of structures built without permits in the north, the south, and in east Jerusalem.
According to the sources, Netanyahu said that "there will be no double standards when it comes to construction. Israeli law will apply equally to both Jews and Arabs."
The prime minister called Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan on Saturday night, asking him to proceed with enforcing the law on the illegally constructed buildings in the Arab sector, and to begin to demolish illegal structures in the coming days.
Sources close to Netanyahu said that he is "determined to apply the law equally to everyone, including in illegal construction—both in the Jewish and in the Arab sectors."
But many in the political system, particularly among the settlers, accused Netanyahu of trying to orchestrate a media spin, noting the demolition of illegal structures in the Arab sector was not new or out of the ordinary.
Close associates of Minister Erdan were also quick to point out that neither the Israel Police nor the Public Security Ministry are responsible for the demolishing of illegal structures in the Arab sector.
Meanwhile, Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel, who is in charge of settling the Negev Bedouin into modern homes, also noted that this announcement was nothing new, and that the plan to demolish illegal structures has been going on for some time.
The Jerusalem municipality was also surprised by the prime minister's announcement. The Netanyahu government has been holding back on demolishing illegal structures in east Jerusalem so as not to upset the Americans or the international community. It was only eight months ago that Netanyahu cancelled the demolition orders for several houses illegally built on municipal property, specifically in the Walls Around Jerusalem National Park—hours before they were due to be carried out.
Members of the Jerusalem Area Forum, which fights against illegal construction along Highway 1 (the main route into Jerusalem), were also not impressed with the announcement, saying they don't believe Netanyahu is serious about demolishing illegal Arab buildings in the city. They say that the prime minister has only been paying lip service in regards to demolishing these illegal structures.
"Netanyahu is really good at talking," one of the forum members said. "But what was will continue. There has been too much inaction in regards to illegal Arab construction, even when there are demolition orders."