Jerusalem Mayor Holds Off Eviction of Settlers From East Jerusalem Home

Compromise achieved after settlers agree not to press for eviction of a Palestinian family living in a nearby Jewish-owned building.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced Sunday evening that the eviction of settlers from the contentious Beit Yonatan, an apartment building built illegally by Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem, will be postponed.

Beit Yonatan- Emil Salman
Emil Salman

The decision was made after settlers agreed not to press for the eviction of a Palestinian family living in a nearby building, which housed a Yemenite synagogue until the 1948 War of Independence.

Barkat said that the eviction of Beit Yonatan will be carried out according to the criteria of the council responsible for house demolitions in the city.
Barkat faced criticism from left-wing groups, who have already blamed him for reaching an agreement with settlers to avoid evicting them from the house.

"Postponing the eviction of Beit Yonatan is a premeditated move by Barkat and the settlers to use the Palestinians as an excuse to avoid the order of the court," said Peace Now leader Yariv Oppenheimer.

Barkat was also criticized by Jerusalem municipality legal adviser, Yossi Havilio who has been working to execute the court order to evict the disputed building. Havilio told Barkat he was "amazed" to hear about the mayor's decision to postpone eviction, and urged the mayor not to interfere with the court's decision.

Barkat's announcement comes after the Supreme Court rejected earlier Sunday an appeal filed by Israeli settlers requesting it postpone again a long-awaited order to evict an apartment building they constructed illegally in a predominantly Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

The evacuation of the building's Jewish residents has been held up for several years due to pressure from Barkat and right-wing groups. The issue came to a head after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein ordered the city and the police to carry out the eviction order and seal the premises without further delay.

Israel stationed border police across the Silwan neighborhood on Sunday and many anticipated that the building would be evacuated this week. The residents of the Beit Yonatan building petitioned the court, however, to hold up the order pending a ruling on an earlier appeal they had submitted over the matter.