Report: J'lem Municipality 'Whitewashed' Illegal Arab Building
The state comptroller has been asked to investigate the "whitewashing" by the Jerusalem municipality of at least 300 cases of illegal Arab construction in the capital.
By Ezra HaLevi
First Publish: 2/28/2006, 7:31 AM / Last Update: 2/28/2006, 10:18 AM
Chairman of the Jerusalem Forum, Aryeh King, filed the request following an expose' published by the 02Net local Jerusalem news site, which alleged that municipal officials have erased the files dealing with hundreds of cases of illegal construction in eastern Jerusalem through the year 2004 that were never dealt with, with the intention of allowing statutes of limitations to run out.
According to the report, 300 files documenting building infractions in eastern Jerusalem were "erased" by the municipality. The files were obscured, according to the report, by Ofir May, the head of Jerusalem's Department of Building Permits. May, according to the report, was acting with the approval of the municipality's legal advisor, Atty. Yossi Havilov.
Those petitioning the comptroller hope not only to induce the municipality to enforce the law, preventing Arabs from grabbing public land in Jerusalem, but to determine whether the order to obscure the files came from the government echelon.
The municipality responded to the allegations, blaming the threat of Arab violence for the lack of enforcement. "During the years of the Intifada, the municipality had difficulty carrying out the necessary level of enforcement in the neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem due to security constraints," a statement read.
The municipality went on to point out that although the number of illegal structures sounds large, it is lower than in previous years. "The number of building infractions in the city's eastern neighborhoods must be looked at in the context of the 70% drop in such infractions compared to previous years. According to aerial photographs from 2004, 200 illegal structures were standing there – most of which were dealt with by the Department of Building Permits.
Last month, the government spent 7.5 million shekels ($1.6 million) and deployed over 7,000 police and IDF troops in order to destroy nine buildings in the Jewish community of Amona.