As I mentioned a few posts ago, Beit Yonatan, a heavily-guarded settler-occupied apartment building in the middle of the Arab neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem has been a particular favorite of Jerusalem Mayor Barkat. He has unilaterally resisted its destruction or sealing for years, despite Israeli Supreme Court rulings specifically directing the municipality to evict the Jewish tenants and close down the illegal building.
Last week, Mayor Barkat suffered something of a public relations setback — and international embarrassment — when he was publicly rebuked by Prime Minister Netanyahu over his plan to “develop” the nearby Bustan area by demolishing scores of Palestinians’ homes to build a park for tourists.
Well, to no one’s surprise, Barkat is at it again. Today (8 March, 2010) he announced his plan to save Beit Yonatan at the municipality planning committee; the very plan itself a wolf in sheep’s clothing. As I explained in my earlier post, Beit Yonatan is an illegally built apartment building occupied by settlers in the middle of an Arab neighborhood. Three years ago, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered it destroyed, an order which was later amended to allow the building to remain standing but which stated that it must be vacated and sealed immediately. Far from obeying this direct order from the Supreme Court, Mayor Barkat has done everything in his power to save this building and protect the settlers who continue to live there illegally and under heavy Israeli guard.
At Jerusalem’s local Planning Committee meeting, Mayor Barkat presented a plan which would save Beit Yonatan and which purports to also allow the legalization of 500 Palestinan homes in the area. However, a closer inspection of the Mayor’s plan shows that its only purpose is the legitimization of Beit Yonatan.
To begin with, presentation of such a “plan” to the Planning Committee is not actually part of the official, legal process for public planning in Jerusalem. This is really a “plan” in name only — there is no practical effect from the Mayor’s announcement, only a political one. Presentation of such a sham plan will simply allow him to justify further delays in the implementation of the Supreme Court’s Order.
Mayor Barkat continuing to act as if the laws of Israel don’t apply to him is bad enough. But the plan he presented today goes one step further in its hypocrisy. Mayor Barkat claims that his “plan” will allow 500 Palestinian homes to be legitimized, along with Beit Yonatan. But he knows very well that the costs and legal bureaucracy involved in bringing these homes into compliance is prohibitive to the Palestinian residents of Silwan. In other words, he knows that the only structure which will likely be affected by this plan is Beit Yonatan.
Mayor Barkat is like a child who has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He simply waited until he thought no one was looking and then tried this latest ploy to buy time for the residents of Beit Yonatan.
Mayor Barkat, your refusal to abide by the laws of this state are anti-democratic and an embarrassment to all Israelis.
You can do something. Write to Mayor Barkat and tell him what you think of his plans.
Nir Barkat: mailto: Lishka@jerusalem.muni.il
Fax No: 02-6296014