East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, Emil Salman
Heavily-guarded Knesset members touring the controversial East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan yesterday. Photo by Emil Salman
Text size

MKs who drove yesterday through Jerusalem's Silwan neighborhood in an armored car said Palestinian children pelted them with stones. "We were attacked with a very large rock that was thrown at us," said MK Yoel Hasson (Likud ), chairman of the State Control Committee. "We felt a shake but the armored car withstood it well."

Hasson and seven other members of the committee were returning from a work visit to Beit Yonatan, a settler compound illegally constructed in the heart of the East Jerusalem neighborhood, when the tightly secured convoy was assaulted by a group of children. The visiting MKs included the National Union's Yaakov Katz, Uri Ariel, Michael Ben Ari and Aryeh Eldad; Anastasia Michaeli (Yisrael Beiteinu ); Yariv Levin (Likud ) and Marina Solodkin (Kadima ).

MK Hasson said he found it regrettable that "the situation is getting worse and worse, but it's not treated as a real problem." He added: "If the same had happened on Ibn Gvirol Street in Tel Aviv, they wouldn't stop until they found the last stone-thrower."

MK Aryeh Eldad warned that the incident amounted to "a grave symptom of yielding sovereignty and non-enforcement of the law against Arab rioters."

"Whoever brought about the situation of MKs' needing an armored car in east Jerusalem could by his negligence bring us to need armored cars on the way to the Knesset and on the main highway to Jerusalem," said Eldad.

Except for Solodkin, only right-wing MKs agreed to take part in the trip, as left-wing parliamentarians said the visit was meant to legitimize illegal construction by the settlers.

Hasson denied this was true, saying that "we didn't come to justify illegal construction, and if there was another family from whose house we could observe, we'd go there."

Nevertheless, the parliamentarians met only with representatives of Beit Yonatan and have not seen any of the Palestinian residents or organizations that represent them.

The Beit Yonatan settlers told the MKs of discrimination experienced at the hands of the Jerusalem municipality, which ordered the house demolished. They argued that thousands of demolitions orders are pending against Palestinian houses in Silwan and elsewhere, and as long as this was the case, there was no need to carry out the order for Beit Yonatan.

The visiting MKs largely agreed with the settlers and lashed out at a representative of the state prosecution who had tried to defend the state's position in the case.

MK Yariv Levin said: "The State of Israel has become a jungle of illegal construction by the Arabs of Jerusalem who try to defacto divide the city by taking over land. Instead of coping with this situation, the legal system gives backing to offenders and focuses all of its effort to uproot the Jewish presence here."

MK Ariel said that the blame lay not with the state prosecution or even the Justice Ministry, but with the Prime Minister's Office for preventing demolition of Palestinian homes because of political pressures.

"If there's a political and diplomatic problem that prevents eviction, let them get up and say so," said MK Hasson at the end of the meeting. "But if you treat it as a legal or judicial problem, it's inconceivable there shouldn't be equal criteria for enforcement. If they insist it's a legal problem, let them work by legal standards."

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, who also visited Silwan yesterday, said there was little risk the mounting tensions in the neighborhood would create a conflagration throughout the capital but said "there's no doubt that everything happening around the Temple Mount and the stone-throwing does not contribute to the city's security and must be stopped immediately." He warned that dozens of people could arrested if necessary.

Aharonovitch observed: "The stone throwing is carried out by children who take the law into their own hands, throw stones and block roads. These children shouldn't get immunity, and this needs to be taken care of."