DE RUEHJM #1097 1801529
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 291529Z JUN 09
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5275
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L JERUSALEM 001097
NEA FOR FRONT OFFICE AND IPA. NSC FOR SHAPIRO/KUMAR
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/29/2019
SUBJECT: ANNOUNCEMENT OF MUNICIPALITY PLAN TO SCALE BACK
DEMOLITIONS NOT WHAT IT SEEMS
REF: JERUSALEM 783
Classified By: Deputy Principal Officer Greg Marchese, per reasons 1.4
(b) and (d)
1. (C) Summary. Jerusalem Municipality contacts confirmed a
June 29 Ha'Aretz article, which claimed that the municipality
is developing a plan to legalize Palestinian homes that do
not interfere with municipal development, such as the
construction of roads and schools. Jerusalem Legal Advisor
Yossi Havilio questioned the Mayor's authority to
retroactively legalize Palestinian homes, while Meretz City
Council members said the plan would not be operable in the
short term or ease demolitions in the politically sensitive
Holy Basin. They also speculated that the announcement was
timed to relax pressure on the GOI as Defense Minister Barak
prepares to head to Washington for meetings. End Summary.
JERUSALEM MUNICIPALITY PLANS
TO LEGALIZE SOME UN-PERMITTED HOMES
2. (C) Ha'Aretz reported on June 29 that Jerusalem Mayor Nir
Barkat plans to freeze the demolition of 70 percent of East
Jerusalem's approximately 20,000 illegal Palestinian homes.
The freeze, according to the article, is part of a plan that
would work with the owners of the other 30 percent of homes
to negotiate compensation and relocation. The article quoted
Yakir Segev, calling him Deputy Mayor for East Jerusalem
Affairs, as saying that the Municipality does not have the
means to enforce all existing demolition orders, as each
demolition requires a lengthy court process and a heavy
security presence. The Municipality only has the budget to
demolish roughly 100 houses a year, the article says.
3. (C) Segev, a City Council member, confirmed the story to
PolOff, saying that the Mayor hopes to have the plan's
details worked out by year-end so he can implement it in
2010. Segev said the Municipality is establishing criteria
that would allow un-permitted homes to receive retroactive
permits based on their location and size. Thus, Segev said,
moderately-sized homes in residential areas could become
legal, while homes built on public land or planned roads
could not. In cases where the Municipality cannot change the
building's legal status, Segev said, Mayor Barkat may adopt
an official policy of "turning a blind eye." In this case,
he said, the Municipality would inform home owners that their
property remains illegal, but does not risk being demolished.
Segev said the plan benefits all parties, as taxes collected
on the "legalized" houses would fund infrastructure
development in East Jerusalem, while home owners could stop
paying to fight demolitions in court.
JERUSALEM LEGAL ADVISOR: MAYOR
LACKS AUTHORITY TO LEGALIZE CONSTRUCTION
4. (C) According to Jerusalem attorney Danny Seidemann, the
Municipality's Legal Advisor, Yossi Havilio, told him that
Mayor Barkat lacks the authority to legalize un-permitted
construction. Havilio also said that the plan could reduce
demolitions in some Palestinian neighborhoods while
increasing them in politically sensitive areas like Silwan.
Havilio said the announcement demonstrates that the
Municipality is "trying to deflect pressure after the
(recent) Quartet announcement" calling on Israel to meet its
CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS SAY ANNOUNCEMENT TIMED
FOR BARAK VISIT, HOME DEMOLITIONS STILL A PROBLEM
5. (C) City Council members Pepe Allalo and Meir Margolit,
both of Meretz, downplayed the Mayor's plan, telling PolOff
that it is in the conceptual stage and will not be executed
for months or years. Margolit and Allalo speculated that the
Municipality leaked information about the plan in
anticipation of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak's visit
to Washington. Margolit added that, in a best-case scenario,
the Municipality only intends to legalize Palestinian homes
on Jerusalem's periphery -- in areas like Beit Hanina to the
north and Sur Bahir to the south -- while intensifying
demolitions in the politically sensitive Holy Basin.
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