Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Monday moved toward legalizing Jewish ownership of an East Jerusalem building, authorizing the district planning commission to take on the matter without first notifying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said he was not involved in the matter.
Yishai's move was exposed by Israel's Channel 1 hours after the Jerusalem Municipality canceled the distribution of evacuation orders for Beit Yonatan, a residential building erected by nationalist Jews in the heart of an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem.
Yishai confirmed the that he had ordered the move and had received assurance that a majority of the council would vote in favor of the move.
The interior minister also said that the residents of Beit Yonatan agreed to move their occupancy two floors down, making it legal. Yishai added that the council was expected to approve a similar move on other contentious buildings in the area.
Less than a week ago, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat bowed to pressure from legal officials and said he would uphold the court order to evacuate and seal Beit Yonatan.
In a letter to State Prosecutor Moshe Lador, Barkat pledged to enforce the court order to evacuate the structure, though he added that he was doing so under protest. Barkat also wrote that the municipality would tear down some 200 Palestinian homes slated for demolition in East Jerusalem. He warned, however, that enforcing the court order fully is liable to trigger a violent response from the Palestinian community.
The Jewish-owned building, named for convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, lies in Silwan, an Arab part of East Jerusalem. A court ruling declared the home was built without the proper permits.
In his letter to Lador, Barkat said the court orders sabotaged a municipal plan to resolve the matter of illegal construction in East Jerusalem. The plan would have allowed the buildings and their residents to remain in place, he said.
Barkat also criticized the Jerusalem municipality's legal consultant, Yossi Havilio, who was the most vocal official in favor of enforcing the court orders.
Last week, Lador sent a letter to Barkat reprimanding him for his refusal to shutter Beit Yonatan.
"Acceptance of the situation in which court orders are not carried out expresses a biting failure," Lador said, adding that "Israel is a law abiding country, and in lawful countries court orders must be carried out."