Public Security Minister: Settlers Won't Forcibly Evict East Jerusalem Palestinians

On eve of Netanyahu visit to Washington, Yitzhak Aharonovitch persuades rightist MKs not to forcibly evict four Palestinian families from building in Silwan.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch has persuaded rightist Knesset members not to forcefully evict Palestinians from a building in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.

Last week, MK Uri Ariel (National Union) declared from the Knesset podium that settlers would hire private security firms to evict four Palestinian families, consisting of 40 persons, from the building - a former Yemenite synagogue from the pre-state era that is located in the heart of Silwan, close to the controversial Beit Yonatan residence and Beit Hadvash.

They said the eviction would be carried out by July 4 if the Palestinians did not voluntarily leave the building.

Aharonovitch toured Silwan on Thursday with Jerusalem District Police Commander Aharon Franco, in the wake of recent violent clashes in the neighborhood.

Aharonovitch and Franco were concerned that heavy clashes would break out if the MKs carried out their threat to evict the Palestinian families from the building by force.

The building was built in the 19th century for the small Yemenite community in Silwan. For the past 50 years, the Abu Nab family, who claims ownership of the building, has been living there.

The home, left, where the Abu Nab family has been living in Silwan.
Tomer Appelbaum

"It's time to stop stirring up and inflaming the atmosphere in the area," Aharonovitch said. "Law enforcement cannot be turned into a political game."

The Jerusalem municipality recently approved preliminary plans to demolish 22 Palestinian homes in Silwan as part of an initiative to build a recreational area there.

The U.S. State Department criticized the decision, calling it the kind of step that undermines the trust fundamental to progress in the proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is traveling to Washington this week and will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday. Obama is expected to press Netanyahu to take steps to advance the peace process with the Palestinians.