Peace Now slams Jerusalem mayor's complicity in settlement outpost.

BeitYonatan.jpgYariv Oppenheimer -- Peace Now's director -- today published the following op-ed in the popular Israeli daily newspaper Ma'ariv.

Barkat's Procrastination

Imagine that in the middle of the neighborhood where you live, among the rows of houses and buildings, construction begins one fine day of a tower that protrudes by two stories above the other buildings, without having received any permit from the municipality and local planning committees.  Imagine that after the building is completed, Palestinians demonstratively enter the building, residents of the West Bank or East Jerusalem, and their entrance to the house is accompanied by ceremonies attended by high-ranking PA officials, and the building becomes a pilgrimage site for elements who are opposed to the State of Israel.

Imagine that after they enter the house, the new residents decide to raise the Palestinian flag over the entire building, and every week the residents there hold gatherings and activities calling to annex the neighborhood in which you live to Palestine.  Outside the building, the new residents recruit for guard duty dozens of armed men and security guards, who patrol the area and guard the convoys of children to and from it, and roam around your houses with drawn handguns.  The new residents install cameras and fences around the house, and the area becomes a fortified zone.

Presumably, no mayor around the world would permit such an incident to happen, and after the first stake had been driven illegally, the municipality inspectors would come to prevent the violation of the law and the construction of the building.  But when it comes to the settlers in Silwan who acted similarly and built Beit Yehonatan against the law in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood, the municipality, the police and the law enforcement agencies are in no hurry to act.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who was elected, among other things, due to his promises to the settler public and his move to the extreme right, continues to search for every trick in the book in order to enable the settlers to hold onto Beit Yehonatan and to carry out, daily, one of the most outrageous and harmful provocations caused by the right wing in East Jerusalem: Beit Yehonatan, which rises to a great height bearing a huge Israeli flag, located in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood, the Arab residents of which are not Israeli citizens.

The residents who were brought to Beit Yehonatan did not come there due to their desire to live quietly and in coexistence with their Palestinian neighbors.  On the contrary, they are a handful of Jewish residents who chose to move to Silwan in a show of defiance and in order to display sovereignty to the tens of thousands of Palestinians who were born in the village.  Since the settlers moved into the building, the lives of the families around the house have become a nightmare.  The nationalist and political activity in the building, its security and the fortifications surrounding it have turned the area into a flash point of tension and violence.

The settlers living in the building are escorted by an army of private security guards, all of which are funded by the Israeli taxpayer.  In the coming year, the state will increase the security costs of the settlements in Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem to NIS 76 million--about NIS 3,160 per month for each settler.

Despite a clear court ruling requiring the house to be evacuated and sealed, Mayor Barkat has no intention of quarreling with those who helped him be elected as mayor--even if this means the systematic trampling of the rule of law.  Barkat tried again this week to create a new artificial media spin, and to link between the eviction of a Palestinian family from its home in the heart of the village to the evacuation of Beit Yehonatan.  But after he raised tension in the area to a peak, he announced, as was to be expected, that he had accepted the settlers' demands once again and would not comply with the court order instructing the evacuation of Beit Yehonatan.

The attempts of the Israeli right wing to portray Beit Yehonatan as just another illegal building inside Silwan are mistaken and misleading.  The court determined this in 14 previous rulings.  Beit Yehonatan is a harmful and dangerous provocation, created by the messianic right wing.  The entire essence of the monstrous and menacing building in the heart of the village is to lead to friction and to suffering for the Palestinian residents and an attempt to demonstrate sovereignty by use of force, security guards and police.  Presumably, no normal person on either the Israeli or Palestinian side would consent for such guests, who are motivated by political and nationalist aspirations, to come and live near their children.