Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat threatened Wednesday to demolish hundreds or thousands of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem if the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona is evacuated.
The city asked for 14 demolition orders for the homes of some 40 East Jerusalem families that Barkat said were built on private Jewish land.
"Unless Amona is legalized, we'll have to destroy hundreds or thousands of houses in Jerusalem too," Barkat said. "The Amona verdict leaves us no discretion to legalize building offenses."
The requested demolition orders are for homes in the Beit Hanina neighborhood, built on land privately owned by Jews and administered by the Custodian General's Office.
Barkat said he asked for the demolition orders following the High Court of Justice's ruling this week to evacuate and destroy the structures in Amona, which were built on private Palestinian land.
The city said hundreds of Palestinian families were living on Jewish land – administered by the custodian general – against whom indictments have been served in recent years. In several cases demolition orders were issued by a court.
Until the Amona ruling, the authorities and courts would give residents of illegal structures extensions to let them obtain permits and thus "legalize" the construction. Now the municipality will have to carry out the court-issued demolition orders, the city said in a statement.
Barkat's proposal was ridiculed as being part of his campaign to recruit new Likud members. It was criticized from both the left and right.
"I don’t understand: What's preventing him following through with these demolitions?" said Arye King, a far-right city council member. "I tell you he's a radical leftist and … what he really wants is to legitimize all illegal housing in East Jerusalem.
According to Sami Ershied, a lawyer working with housing issues in East Jerusalem, "There is no legal claim here or public benefit. This is a very strange request and I don't think it stands a chance. As much as city hall believes in justice … it should ensure that homes of Palestinians taken by Jews are returned to their owners."
Ir Amim, a left-wing organization active in Jerusalem, harshly criticized Barkat, saying "he has revealed his true face, embracing the 'price tag' tactics," a reference to attacks by Jewish extremists on Palestinians and others.
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