Settlers Lose Court Battle Against East Jerusalem Eviction

Settler group Ateret Cohanim had asked court to delay eviction from Beit Yonatan in the Arab-majority neighborhood of Silwan.

A Jerusalem court on Wednesday rejected a petition by hard-line Jewish nationalists to keep possession of a disputed house beyond the Green Line in the east of the city, paving the way for police to evict them.

Ateret Cohanim, a charity group that represents the settlers, had asked the court to delay proceedings to evict them from a seven-story building, known as Beit Yonatan, in the Arab-majority neighborhood of Silwan.

Beit Yonatan, a building where Israeli settlers live in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, in 2010.
Daniel Bar-On

From Thursday, police will have the authority to remove the settlers and have already held meetings with Palestinian residents of Silwan, asking them to move vehicles to provide access for security forces.

Wednesday's decision is a blow to Ateret Cohanim, as the group had hoped to stall the eviction long enough for a new municipal developement plan for the area to come into force – which could grant planning permission for Beit Yonatan retroactively.

But a judge ruled that as it was unclear how long it would take for the new city program comes into force, there were no grounds to delay an order to evict the settlers and seal off the building.

The may not mean the end to the dispute over Beit Yonatan, however: In his ruling, Justice Morris Ben-Atar noted that the decision could be reversed if the municipality grants planning permission at a later date.

Last week, Beit Yonatan residents threatened to carry out an eviction of their own. The settlers said they would hire private security firms to evict four Palestinian families, comprising some 40 people, if they did not leave by July 4.