JERUSALEM -Members of Israel’s Knesset harshly criticized the government and the Jerusalem Municipality for allowing the de facto division of the holy city, even as Israeli leaders insist Jerusalem will never be divided and will remain the united capital of the Jewish people.
The critical remarks came during a meeting of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, which was discussing rampant illegal Arab construction on the eastern side of Jerusalem.
A state comptroller’s report last year estimated that there are between 20,000-30,000 unauthorized buildings in eastern Jerusalem, with another 1,000 being added every year.
The illegal construction is especially widespread in the areas of Jerusalem that lie beyond the security barrier. Regavim, an NGO that monitors use of Israel’s national land, told The Jerusalem Post that Jerusalem Municipality inspectors had not visited these parts of Jerusalem since 2005 because of the security risk.
Lawmaker Yulia Berkovich of the center-left Kadima Party reacted angrily:
“It’s like saying the Jerusalem Municipality and Jerusalem Police have no ability to enforce laws [in these areas]. Has Jerusalem already been divided? Because if it has, I want to know.”
Regavim director Betzalel Smotrich said the other problem is that while the government and municipality turn a blind eye to illegal Arab construction, they are quick to pounce on any effort by Jews to build in these parts of Jerusalem, even when the construction is authorized.