Ben-Gvir v. Netanyahu: Will demolition of illegal Palestinian structure will be carried out?

Netanyahu reportedly stopped the move due to international pressure, particularly from U.S. Secretary Blinken, and security warnings; Ben-Gvir insists “it will happen.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir insisted Monday that a pending demolition order against an illegally built apartment house in eastern Jerusalem would be carried out even after the prime minister reportedly nixed the plan.

Addressing the media, he said, “You set a timetable and said it was tomorrow; if it won’t happen tomorrow, you’ll say it was postponed…. The evacuation will happen. Because there is an order from the minister that the law is the law. If not tomorrow, then two days later. If not in a week, then in two weeks. It will happen because the laws of the State of Israel must be enforced. Period.”

According to Channel 11, over 500 police officers were to be part of the operation that would take over 24 hours to bring down the four-story building in Wadi Qadum, part of the Silwan/Shiloach neighborhood next to the Old City. Built without any city permits, it houses some 95 people in 12 apartments. It has had a court-ordered demolition order against it since 2015 that was never enforced.

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Part of the reason that the structure was left alone all these years was that outside political pressure had been applied, and this played a role now as well, with the American embassy and certain European ambassadors reportedly asking Netanyahu to put a halt to Ben-Gvir’s plan.

Kan news also reported that Chief of Staff Herzi Halevy and Shabak head Ronen Bar had met with Netanyahu and strongly advised against the demolition. They warned him that destroying the building “would lead to a security flare-up that would last throughout Ramadan.” They asked him to cancel the move, “and he immediately did so,” said political reporter Michael Shemesh.

The month of Ramadan, which in recent years has been a time of heightened Arab-on-Jew violence in Israel, begins this year on March 22.

Ze’ev Elkin of the Opposition’s National Unity Party mocked the delay, tweeting, “It can’t be. Must be fake news. I don’t believe that [Finance Minister and Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel] Smotrich and Ben-Gvir succumbed to international pressure, and more so in Jerusalem. Soon we will be told that the right-wing government has asked for a postponement of the eviction of Khan al-Ahmar.”

In 2018, the High Court of Justice ruled in favor of the demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar, the illegally-built Bedouin encampment adjacent to Route 1 right outside of Jerusalem, but international pressure has apparently talked louder than the rule of law and has yet to be torn down.

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Earlier this month, for the ninth time, the State asked the High Court to allow another postponement, due to “the complexity of the issue and its sensitivity, the high level of interest in the international community and the implications for the foreign relations and security of the State of Israel at the present time.”

Following the two terrorist attacks in Jerusalem 10 days ago in which seven Jews were killed and five wounded, Ben-Gvir announced that he was ordering the police to carry out already-approved demolition orders against Arab-owned illegal structures. There are many such directives that have been delayed for years by the municipality. More than a dozen have been been carried out since Ben-Gvir gave his order.