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After Amona ruling, Jerusalem asks court to approve demolition of Palestinian homes

Nov. 16, 2016 8:17 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 10, 2016 3:41 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- In response to the Israeli Supreme Court’s ruling to evacuate the illegal Israeli outpost of Amona in the occupied West Bank by the year’s end, the Jerusalem municipality has reportedly demanded that the court in turn approve the immediate demolition of more than a dozen Palestinian homes in Jerusalem.

Leading up to a court session regarding a petition by the state to postpone the evacuation of Amona, the implementation of which has faced almost a decade of delays amid widespread backlash from Israel’s right-wing government, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat threatened last week that the dismantlement of the outpost would be met with the mass demolition of Palestinian homes lacking Israeli-issued building permits in occupied East Jerusalem.

After the court emphatically decided to uphold the decision and reprimanded the Israeli government’s attempt to evade the rule of law, a legal adviser for the Jerusalem municipality submitted a request to the court to approve demolition orders for 14 homes housing some 40 Palestinians in the Beit Hanina neighborhood, according to a Wednesday report by Israeli news site Arutz Sheva.

Barkat has claimed that thousands of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem lack the difficult-to-obtain Israeli-issued building licenses, arguing that they should be subject to the same standards applied to the decision to demolish Amona.

"There cannot be one law for Jews and another law for Arabs." the mayor reportedly said.

A spokesperson for the municipality could not immediately be reached for comment on the report, which also came as legislation to retroactively legalize all 232 illegal outposts in the occupied West Bank passed its first reading in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, on Wednesday, a law that the Israeli attorney general said would be indefensible in court if passed.

In upholding their decision to evacuate Amona, the Supreme Court justices said that the proposed law did not affect their ruling, refusing to comment further on the so-called “Legalization bill.” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has also reportedly said evacuating Amona was “unavoidable” despite the bill.

The threat to displace the 40 Palestinian residents of Beit Hanina also comes after reports emerged Wednesday that a pro-settler organization had requested that Israeli courts evict nine Palestinian families in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.

The organization, Ateret Cohanim, focuses on “Judaizing” East Jerusalem through a Jewish reclamation project working to expand illegal settlements and facilitate Jewish takeover of Palestinian properties across the Green Line into Palestinian territory.

Meanwhile, demolitions of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem have already seen an unprecedented surge this year, with the number of structures demolished in the first half of 2016 well exceeding the total number of demolitions carried out in all of 2015.
More than 1,383 Palestinians have been displaced since the beginning of 2016 as a result of demolitions in the occupied territory, compared to 688 Palestinians displaced over the entirety of 2015, according to UN documentation.

On Tuesday, Israeli bulldozers demolished the foundation of a mosque in the village of Sur Bahir in Jerusalem, just a few hours after several agricultural structures were demolished in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Silwan and Jabal al-Mukabbir, amid a spate of demolitions that day across the occupied territory.

On Monday, nine Palestinian households were left without a steady income in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina when they were forced to demolish their own commercial stores, and on Sunday, 12 Palestinians were left homeless when they were forced to demolish their apartments in the Jabal al-Mukabbir neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

In occupied East Jerusalem, though the municipality has said it receives a disproportionately low number of permit applications from Palestinian communities compared to the Jewish population, and that Palestinian applications "see high approval ratings," procedures to apply for Israeli-issued building permits are lengthy, sometimes lasting for several years, while the application costs can reach up to 300,000 shekels ($79,180).

As four out of five of Palestinians in East Jerusalem live under the poverty line, applying for these permits is nearly impossible. As a result, only 7 percent of Jerusalem building permits go to Palestinian neighborhoods.
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