By Ben Sales
Israel’s Supreme Court has proposed a compromise that could avert the contentious eviction of dozens of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem.
The neighborhood, also known in Hebrew as Shimon HaTzaddik, was home to Jewish families before Jordan captured the area in the 1948 war for Israel’s independence. Jordan then gave the Jewish families’ homes to Palestinians who were displaced from Israel and prohibited from returning. Now an Israeli group that obtained the original Jewish families’ ownership rights is trying to evict the Palestinian families from the homes.
The neighborhood has been the site of legal battles and protests rooted in the competing broader Israeli and Palestinian claims to eastern Jerusalem. Protests over the pending evictions helped spark the conflict in May between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
At a hearing Monday, Justice Isaac Amit suggested that the Palestinian families stay in the homes as “protected tenants” who are legally protected from eviction for life, according to The Jerusalem Post. In exchange they would have to pay a small amount of rent to the Israeli owners.
“What we are saying is, let’s move from the level of principles to the levels of practicality,” said Amit, according to Haaretz. “People must continue to live there and that’s the idea, to try to reach a practical arrangement without making various declarations.”
But the Israeli owners are demanding that the Palestinian residents formally recognize the Jewish residency rights. The Palestinian families worry that accepting the deal would constitute relinquishing their claims to the property in future potential court battles.
The hearing ended inconclusively, and the judges asked the Palestinians’ attorneys to submit a list of people who are eligible for protected tenancy.