illegal Arab construction
illegal Arab constructionIsrael news photo: Dov Barak

Out of some 20,000 illegal Arab structures in Jerusalem, three were demolished yesterday, arousing international protest. The three were located in the Isawiya neighborhood, just east of Mt. Scopus and Hadassah Hospital.

Jerusalem municipality sources said the buildings were uninhabited, though Arabs on the site told international media representatives that at least two of them were inhabited.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who has attempted to fight the plague of illegal Arab construction in the city, told the Knesset Interior Committee earlier this year that he had “not received an intelligent answer” from the State Prosecution as to why only a minuscule number of the 20,000 illegal structures are slated for demolition.

In Silwan, for instance, also known as the City of David just below the Temple Mount, Barkat said there were 657 buildings, only six of which have permits and seven of which are on their way to receiving permits. Demolition orders have been issued against only 42 buildings, though this does not mean that they will be razed any time soon.

A day earlier, it was announced that the Jerusalem Planning Committee had given final approval to 32 new housing units in the Jewish suburb of Pisgat Ze’ev. This is a fraction of the normal growth in the area, which has a population of close to 50,000. Another 48 units are reported to be under consideration for final approval next week.

Though the freeze on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria does not officially include Jerusalem, Housing Minister Ariel Attias confirmed in May that there is indeed a construction freeze in Jerusalem. In response to a query by MK Uri Ariel (National Union) concerning a report that plans for 1,000 approved housing units in the Jewish neighborhoods of Gilo, Har Homa, Pisgat Ze'ev and N’vei Yaakov were on hold, Attias confirmed that the information was correct.

Yesterday’s demolitions were condemned by the U.S. "The United States has made it clear that it disagrees with some government of Israel actions in Jerusalem,” said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley, “and has urged all parties to avoid actions that could undermine trust.” The European Union’s European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said as well, "I have to express my deep concern about the latest developments in east Jerusalem. These are counterproductive developments. Settlements and demolition of houses are illegal, they are against international law, they constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible.”