Daily Israel Report

State Failing to Enforce Law in Eastern Jerusalem

The Knesset will hold a special hearing on Tuesday on the refusal by authorities to enforce Israeli law in eastern Jerusalem.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 1/9/2012, 10:17 PM

Issawiya Riot
Issawiya Riot
Flash 90

The Knesset on Tuesday will hold a special session on illegal construction - and the abject failure of authorities to ensure order - in eastern Jerusalem.

The hearing comes due to recent admissions by government officials that code and law enforcement in Jerusalem's eastern neighborhoods is virtually non-existent because the authorities, including police, are afraid of entering the area and applying Israeli sovereignty there.

Lawyer Amir Fischer told Arutz Sheva he filed a petition demanding a government response due to the grim state of affairs in eastern Jerusalem, saying,"For fifteen years they have not enforced the law."

Fischer added that although his petition focused on the villages of A'akab and Atarot, the reality is pervasive throughout the Jerusalem's eastern neighborhoods.

The official response to Fischer's petition said, the "security situation in these neighborhoods is complex, largely influenced by the proximity between these areas to Judea and Samaria. Security forces in the sector routinely encounter violence and demonstrations, throwing rocks, throwing petrol bombs, blocking roads, and laying of pipe bombs, and more."

The state further argued "the responsibility for enforcing the planning and building laws rests with the Jerusalem municipality and that, due to the security situation, inspectors did not enter these areas for fifteen years. Entrance to the village requires military escorts and requires justification for using such resources."

"These measures would have to be in place for several weeks at a time to allow inspectors to check building safety," the state went on to explain. "This means reallocating vast and unique resources exclusively to this issue, which draws security forces away from more important tasks, including ongoing security operations and providing assistance to law enforcement, which increases the risk to public safety."

In its summary the state replied the problem Fischer raised is known, but not a priority due to limited resources to allocate to the problem. "As to law enforcement priorities, especially in relation to structures built without a permit after all this time, given the existing security situation, there are more serious issues than planning and construction to be dealt with."

Fischer said he was ashamed of the state's response saying anarchy was the rule in parts of Israel's capital and that the question was one of national consequence.

"This affects our sovereignty in Jerusalem," Fischer said, noting the failure to enforce Israeli law in Jerusalem runs counter to the Basic Law on Jerusalem and undercuts Israeli claims to its own capital.

"The current reality has led to the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, to raise the proposed division of the capital so he can cease providing services in neighborhoods beyond the separation fence - and yet he claims that this idea should be supported even though it means anarchy will reign in these parts of the city."

Of the Knesset hearing on Tuesday, Fischer said, "It will be difficult to justify the state's response." "I am ashamed when I read it. They dragged their and repeatedly asked us the clarify our questions in discussions with the Attorney General before answering - and then only after months had passed."

"In some cases entire neighborhoods - and buildings as many as twenty stories tall - have been built without permission or supervision," he added.

"Even in Area C the law should be enforced," Fischer said, referring to 'disputed territories' in Judea and Samaria that remain under Israeli administrative control.

Fischer noted that a similar reality exists in the Negev, the Galilee and in some places in Wadi Ara.