By Orly Noy, Ir Amim's spokesperson
The latest intention of realizing the three-year-old eviction and sealing order against Beit Yohanatan, located in the Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem, led Knesset member Uri Ariel to express his deep concern for the value of equality in the face of the law: in parallel to the eviction and sealing orders against Beit Yohanatan, Ariel demanded that the city destroy hundreds of Palestinian houses in Silwan that also have had demolition orders served against them.
Simply put, Knesset member Ariel suggested to the Jerusalem Municipality to adopt the tactics taken by extremists in the West Bank settlements: the price tag policy. After years during which the highest level politicians, including Knesset members and the Mayor of Jerusalem Barkat himself, tried to prevent carrying out the eviction and sealing order against Beit Yohonatan by using various tricks and legal maneuvering, Knesset member Ariel changes strategies and pulls out the stick: that every Palestinian in East Jerusalem should know that evicting a Jewish settler from his residence is liable to lead to the destruction of more than one Palestinian home.
The phenomenon of Palestinians having to build without permits in Jerusalem is clearly a political issue, whose roots have been grounded in Israeli policy since 1967, when Israel sought to limit and even push out Palestinians from Jerusalem using various means. Whoever raises the notion of equality before the law should have a look at the following data: while the State of Israel has built 50,000 housing units for the Israeli public in East Jerusalem alone since its annexation in 1967, during those same years, it gave Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, whose numbers have since grown from 70,000 to 300,000, a total of only 5,000 building permits. Most of the Palestinian neighborhoods have not had effective master plans already for dozens of years, and even Yakir Segev, who holds the portfolio of East Jerusalem in the Jerusalem municipality and is identified as being on the right, admitted that Palestinians have to be more than a saint in order to receive a proper building permit.
From the correspondence between Knesset member Ariel and the director of the Jerusalem municipality, it becomes clear that in accordance to new policy, the issue of housing demolitions in East Jerusalem now is being handled by the Prime Minister's Office and requires its approval. If this is indeed the case, the Prime Minister should be blessed for his understanding that this is a sensitive issue that demands the consideration of the head of the government. In the last few months alone it has proven again and again that as long as matters hinge upon Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem, Israel's foreign relations are at stake. In addition to the political aspect, Jerusalem's security and stability need to be taken into account, as they are liable to be harmed as a result of the wave of demolitions that Knesset member Ariel wishes to promote in East Jerusalem. This is a consideration that the Jerusalem police must take into account, as they are responsible for the residents of the city, and not just toward political interests and so forth.
As a result of the American pressure, Israeli building plans in East Jerusalem have been frozen already for several weeks. Logic demands that demolitions of Palestinian homes also be included in this freeze, as they represent two sides of the same coin: at the end of the day, the future of Jerusalem must be decided upon by negotiations table and not bulldozers.