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Barkat Caves in On Arab Illegal Construction

Jerusalem mayor reveals plans to give retroactive approval to much illegal Arab construction, starting with the City of David area.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 12/13/2009, 12:34 PM / Last Update: 12/13/2009, 2:23 PM

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The Jerusalem Municipality intends to grant retroactive approval to many illegally constructed structures in Arab-populated eastern Jerusalem, Mayor Nir Barkat told the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Sunday.

The new policy will be tested in areas in which illegal construction is especially rife: the Silwan and King's Garden areas, which are adjacent to the City of David.

Regarding the King's Garden area, which is believed to have been an orchard since First Temple times but which has been built over by Arabs in recent years, Barkat said that there are 43 illegal structures against which demolition orders have been issued. The rest of the structures are facing court proceedings.

The municipality is advancing a plan that would “on the one hand, conserve the valley, and on the other hand, lead to its development and find solutions to some of the homes that already exist on the ground, while developing the entire area for tourism, commerce and housing solutions.”

Four Out of 71 to be Legalized
In Silwan, there are 71 structures against which demolition orders have been issued. The new municipal plan would allow construction of apartment buildings up to four stories high in that zone, thus making all but four of the new buildings retroactively legal.

The objective of the new policy, Barkat said, is to “reduce the gaps that currently exist” between the official plans and the reality on the ground, and to “encourage the public to follow the law and public order." As part of the plan, the municipality will grant retroactive approval to as many structures as it can possibly include in the new plans, but vows to adopt an tough policy of punishment regarding new construction violations.

The mayor has instructed the relevant municipal offices to replan zoning in a way that “causes enforcement policy to conform with the general policy” and which includes “giving the possibility and time for resolving infractions that can be resolved based on the new policy while deepening enforcement regarding new violations.”

Barkat's bureau said that in 2009 the municipality carried out 112 demolition orders – 49 of them in western Jerusalem and 63 in eastern Jerusalem.