Settler Activists Face Eviction From East Jerusalem Stronghold

Jewish families living in the Beit Yonatan structure in Silwan are slated for evacuation, and that operation now seems almost unavoidable.

This time it seems the bargaining chips - both judicial and political - have run out for the inhabitants of Beit Yonatan, a seven-story residence in the heart of Silwan that has been a flashpoint in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

Ten Jewish families living in the structure are slated for evacuation, and that operation - put off until "after the holidays" - now seems almost unavoidable.

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

After years of judicial wrangling, even Mayor Nir Barkat has now been forced to accede to the pressure exerted by the attorney general and state prosecutor. Now the matter is in the hands of the police, though it too appears reluctant to take on the task.

Three years have passed since a court ordered the evacuation of the residence. Since then, the organization Ateret Cohanim - which originally brought the settlers in - has waged a legal and PR battle to delay the order's execution.

On several occasions the police have sought to delay the building's evacuation, and before the holidays police representatives recommended to the attorney general that the evacuation be put off until after both the Ramadan holy month and the Jewish high holidays.

But the holiday season didn't exactly pass peacefully in Silwan. Between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, local resident Samar Sirhan was killed by a security guard for the settlers, and on most days during the subsequent holidays young people from the neighborhood clashed with police. On Tuesday police prevented a rightist procession from marching through the neighborhood.

It is possible that the police will now claim the tensions are preventing it from carrying out the evacuation of Beit Yonatan, and that the move should again be delayed.