Mayor Mulls Hiring Private Guards to Demolish Illegal Homes in East Jerusalem

Municipality spokesperson denies report, says Barkat insists house demolitions and enforcement of building regulations be implemented only under the protection of the police.

Akiva Eldar
Akiva Eldar
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Akiva Eldar
Akiva Eldar

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat is considering the possibility of hiring private security guards to take part in the demolition of homes in East Jerusalem and provide security for construction teams, according to an internal memo written Sunday by the municipality's legal consultant.

In the memo, which was obtained by Haaretz, legal consultant Yossi Havilio wrote that the mayor had broached the subject with the municipal construction, licensing and inspecting department and that the municipality's supervisor of building inspections, Ofir Mai, asked Havilio to examine the matter from a legal standpoint.

A protest against home demolitions in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem.Credit: Daniel Bar-On

Havilio said he would issue an opinion on the matter shortly.

Municipality spokesperson Gidi Shmerling denied the contents of the memo, saying that Barkat is insisting that house demolitions and enforcement of building regulations in both parts of the city be implemented only under the protection of the police.

According to Havilio, Barkat sought to examine the various aspects entailed in the contracting of private firms for building inspection jobs in East Jerusalem. The mayor was also said to be inquiring about the legal ramifications of using private firms to perform tasks normally assigned to police or municipal officials, including taking part in patrol missions throughout East Jerusalem and entering private residences to collect witness statements and evidence.

According to Havilio, Barkat is considering using private firms to enforce construction and building codes only in East Jerusalem.

Last week Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said the police were preparing to enforce demolition orders against illegally built Arab homes in East Jerusalem. Yet the Prime Minister's Bureau made clear that in the next two weeks there would be no demolitions in the eastern part of the capital due to security considerations.

Haaretz has also learned that Havilio was unhappy over the police refusal to take part in enforcing demolition orders without written approval from the director general of the municipality. Havilio made his displeasure known to Jerusalem police chief Aharon Franco.

Deputy Mayor Yosef (Pepe ) Alalu received a copy of an e-mail from Havilio in which Mai indicates that he passed along the police request to municipality director general Yair Maayan.

In a letter to Franco, Havilio states that the police requirement for approval from the director general, who answers to the mayor, is inconsistent with the directives issued by the attorney general.

In December 2009 former attorney general Menachem Mazuz wrote that the exclusive authority over enforcing demolition orders against illegal housing belongs to the city's top legal official and the supervisory department in the city engineer's office. Mazuz said the municipality is not to accept any instructions regarding enforcement from any other official.

The municipality said the director general has no knowledge of the police request for his approval to carry out the demolitions.

A spokesperson for the Jerusalem police said they did not submit a request for approval from the director general of the municipality and that the police are prepared to carry out demolition orders in coordination with the municipality if and when a date is set.



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