Jerusalem Adviser: Demolish Illegal Buildings Near Old City

Rightist group Elad, which operates site, also has plans for construction in heart of Arab neighborhood Silwan.

Jerusalem's legal adviser has ordered city prosecutors to take legal action to remove new structures built illegally in the City of David by Elad, the nonprofit organization that operates the site, Haaretz has learned.

The order was issued after Elad put up several structures in the Peace Forest, just south of the Old City.

In a letter sent to Deputy Mayor Joseph "Pepe" Alalu (Meretz) two weeks ago, city legal advisor Yosef Havilio said that the new construction was discovered about two months ago. The site contains two longstanding structures, one made of asbestos and the other of stone. But next to them were several new, illegally-built structures: one made of wood, one tent, a restroom and another asbestos structure.

The structures are located 200 meters from the Old City walls, in an area that is considered extremely sensitive from the standpoint of negotiations with the Palestinians over a final-status agreement. Elad is often described as a right-wing organization.

Haaretz reported recently that an internal document by Havilio described Elad and senior municipal officials as being in close contact. Inter alia, it said, Elad representatives were invited to participate in municipal discussions about developing the area just south of the Old City.

"Elad's staff received tasks to perform from city officials, as though Elad were an integral part of the municipality," the report said.

Alalu said Thursday that he found Elad's new structures unacceptable. "I cannot agree to the actions of organizations like Elad, for which the law on legal construction is nothing more than a recommendation," he said.

The city said the structures belong to the Jewish National Fund and were loaned to Elad for "tourism activity." The issue is under legal review, the city added.

Elad said that Alalu has been trying "for many years to work against Israel's sovereignty in Jerusalem and to attack any activity by Zionist bodies such as Elad and the Jerusalem Municipality."

"His continued efforts to please and serve forces hostile to Jerusalem and its inhabitants will not succeed," the organization added. "Elad is careful to act within the confines of the law in all its activities, and this case is no exception."

In May, Haaretz reported that the municipality had begun the process of approving a plan by Elad for a new housing complex, including a synagogue, in the heart of the Arab neighborhood of Silwan, also south of the Old City.