City Delays Evacuation of Rightists From East Jerusalem Building

Last minute political pressure preventing implementation of Supreme Court ruling to evacuate Beit Yehonatan.

Last minute political pressure is preventing the implementation of a Supreme Court ruling to evacuate Beit Yehonatan, which was established in East Jerusalem by the right-wing group Ateret Cohanim.

In July 2008 the court ruled that the seven-story structure in the Silwan neighborhood must be shuttered.

Haaretz has learned that parallel preparations by the municipal inspectors and the police to carry out the court order, pressure has come down on the legal counselor of the municipality, Yosef Havilio, to delay the execution of the order.

The issue had been deliberated for the past four years and the court, despite a series of delays, rejected the appeal by the residents of the building. However, a statement issued Tuesday from the office of Mayor Nir Barkat announced that "a variety of legal alternatives are being examined between the owners of the structure and the courts."

Barkat's response was issued following a letter sent last week by Deputy Mayor David Hadari to the legal counselor and other senior municipal figures, opposing the order to evacuate and seal the structure.

According to Hadari, a copy of whose letter Haaretz received, Beit Yehonatan (named for Jonathan Pollard), "is a symbol of full Israeli sovereignty in all parts of Jerusalem."

Hadari, who heads the National Union-National Religious Party faction in the city council, protested in the letter what he described as selective application of planning and construction laws. He said the Jews in Beit Yehonatan are being targeted exclusively, and demanded that the warrants for the razing of nearby homes of Palestinians in Silwan also be carried out.

A spokesman for the Jerusalem District Police told Haaretz two months ago that the Jerusalem Municipality has requested police assistance to secure the evacuation and closing of the building, but the police, "because of operational requirements," had to delay assistance.

The police promised it would "soon assist in implementing the warrant." Deputy Mayor Yosef Allalo of Meretz said that "Beit Yehonatan has become the test of the rule of law, and the municipality of Jerusalem cannot avoid this fact."

He said that since the court decision on the house, dozens of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem have been razed.

In response, the mayor's office said that so long as the owners of the house and "the courts have not reached agreement, which has been approved by the court, the municipality and the police are bound to carry out the order ... The municipality aims to further the rule of law in all parts of the city, without prejudice between Jews and Arabs or between west and east in the city."