Menu JTA Search

Begin’s Office Says It Knows Nothing About Eviction Notices to Three Arab Families Living Near the S

Premier Menachem Begin’s office has denied any knowledge of the eviction orders served over the weekend to three Arab families living near the safe designated for Begin’s new office in East Jerusalem. “I know nothing of the order and I don’t know who decided to issue it at this time,” Matitychu Shmuelevitz, director general of the Prime Minister’s Office said yesterday.

The notices were served to three families living in houses adjacent to the recently completed building which will house the Prime Minister’s Office in the Sheikh Jarah section of East Jerusalem. They were signed by a lawyer in the office of the legal advisor of the Israel Land Administration which is the legal owner of the land.

The land was expropriated in January, 1968, as part of the large scale expropriations in East Jerusalem to allow the building of a number of Jewish neighborhoods encircling Arab Jerusalem.

However, the three families living in the area were not evacuated because this specific site was not needed for any purpose. Only during the last year, with the decision to go ahead to build the new headquarters for the Prime Minister’s Office, was it necessary to implement the expropriation order. The Arab owned houses are located between the newly-built government buildings. It seems that security needs were the main reasons for the decision to ask the families to leave.

PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE IS EMBARRASSED

The orders were issued on the basis of the government expropriation order of 1968. The tenants were asked to vacate the houses immediately. “No further warnings will be provided and the government will employ all legal procedure of its disposal,” the order read.

But the orders have caused much embarrassment to the Prime Minister’s Office which feels that it should have been consulted before the measure was taken. One possible explanation for what now seems to be a blunder is that a relatively junior official gave the eviction order, without first consulting with his superiors.

The tenants, for their part, said they would never leave their homes of their own free will.

“I would rather die than give up the place,” said 55-year-old Zeinab Abu-Taha, one of the tenants, who moved into the building after the War of Independence. “If Begin wants to move next door — welcome,” she said. “We will even give a party in his honor. But why does he have to push me out?” According to sources at the Land Administration Office, the tenants were offered considerable compensation which they have so far refused.

NEXT STORY