Jerusalem Mayor to Retroactively Legalize East Jerusalem Buildings

Nir Hasson
Haaretz Correspondent
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Nir Hasson
Haaretz Correspondent

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat is to hold a press conference Tuesday in which he will unveil his plan for solving some of the capital's thorniest construction issues, in Silwan in East Jerusalem.

Barkat is expected to announce that he wants to pursue a plan that will retroactively legalize housing, including Beit Yonatan, owned by settlers. State Prosecutor Moshe Lador has instructed that Beit Yonatan be sealed in compliance with a court order.

According to the plan, most of which was reported in the New York Times a few days ago, Barkat wants to reach an agreement with the residents of 89 illegal buildings slated for demolition in the Palestinian area known as Al Bustan or Gan Hamelech.

About a year ago Barkat became embroiled in a high-profile conflict with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over his intention to demolish the homes. Barkat is now offering permits to some residents to legalize their buildings. Others will be demolished and replaced with a tourist park. The Palestinians whose houses are demolished will be able to operate tourist-related businesses in the park.

Barkat has been attacked on the left because it is believed that this will allow him to avoid sealing Beit Yonatan. Meanwhile, not far from Gan Hamelech a large pit opened near one of Silwan's mosques. According to the Palestinians and the leftist organizations that support them, the pit, the fifth to open over the past two months, is due to archaeological excavations underway by the Elad association and the Israel Antiquities Authority. The excavations have uncovered a street from the Second Temple period.

About two months ago Supreme Court Justice Edna Arbel rejected a petition by Palestinian residents of Silwan against the dig, saying that there was no proof it was responsible for the pits and cracks in homes.

Rabbi Arik Asherman, CEO of Rabbis for Human Rights, said: "Despite the High Court ruling that the excavations and the cracks and pits are unconnected, we saw today more proof of the very direct connection."

Elad said they had not heard about the pit; however, the Supreme Court had twice rejected Palestinian claims on the matter, the houses were "irregularly built and with problematic infrastructure," and such things happen after heavy rain. "Funding of NIS 30 million to restore the road and infrastructure is being delayed by the human rights groups' petition," Elad said.

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