Comptroller: Jerusalem Council Turned Blind Eye to Illegal Building in Silwan

State comptroller's report finds that the Jerusalem municipality has been lax in enforcing building codes and reining in illegal construction in Silwan.

Jerusalem city hall has been lax in enforcing building codes and reining in illegal construction in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, according to a state comptroller's report.

In particular, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss cited the municipality's failure to preserve green areas in Silwan's Gan Hamelech section.

East Jerusalem
Emil Salman

Gan Hamelech garnered media attention earlier this year after Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat declared his intention to raze 22 of the 88 illegal structures built at the site in order to make way for a park meant to attract tourists. The mayor said he prepared his plan after having been criticized by the comptroller for failing to confront the illegal building problem.

Gan Hamelech, known in Arabic as Al Bustan, lies in the heart of the predominantly Arab neighborhood. In his report, the comptroller noted the site has both archaeological and environmental significance.

Though the area was zoned mainly as open space, city hall has permitted Palestinian residents to construct homes there illegally for the past 20 years.

"For years, the municipality has not acted against illegal construction with sufficient determination, nor has it succeeded in stopping it in its initial stages," the report said. "Moreover, even when city hall did raze buildings, it did not act to prevent the construction of new ones."

The comptroller also criticized the drawn-out legal proceedings against those believed to be behind the illegal construction, as well as the lack of cooperation between the municipality and the Interior Ministry in efforts to tackle the problem.