Israel’s Supreme Court pushes ‘compromise’ to keep Arab squatters in Jerusalem neighborhood

“The compromise…is a capitulation…at the highest level, to political and ideological pressure from the extreme left,” said Chaim Silberstein, head of the Keep Jerusalem non-profit.

By World Israel News Staff

Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday floated what they said was a compromise that would prevent the evictions of dozens of Arabs living in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

Known as Shimon HaTzadik in Hebrew, the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood was originally home to a sizable Jewish population. Much of its land was owned by Ashkenazi and Sephardic religious cooperatives.

During the 1948 War of Independence, Jewish families were forced out and Arabs from other neighborhoods in Jerusalem, alongside a number of Jordanians, moved into the homes.

University of San Diego School of Law professor Avi Bell recently summarized the dispute as a “controversy … widely misreported as an effort by the State of Israel to evict a number of Palestinian Arab families from their ancestral homes in a purely Palestinian Arab neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem,” JNS reported.

“The eviction orders are in fact the result of a decades-long legal battle by the Jewish owners of private property in Sheikh Jarrah to recover possession of their land from squatters and tenants who have not paid rent for decades; the State of Israel has never been a party to the legal proceedings,” Bell explained.

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The cases examined Monday involve four Palestinian families numbering a total of about 70 people.

Lower Israeli courts have approved the evictions of the four families. They ruled that their houses were built on land owned by Jews before Israel was established in 1948.

But weighing a last-ditch appeal from the residents, the court suggested a compromise that would give them “protected” status.

The three-judge panel asked the families to consider an offer by which one member of each family would be granted lifetime protected tenancy on the property in exchange for annual payments of NIS 1,500, The Jerusalem Post reported.

“This is the practical solution,” said Judge Yitzhak Amit, who led most of the proceedings, the Post reported. “We recommend it precisely because… you do not want anyone to be thrown out of their home.”

The deal would protect them from eviction for many years, but leave the question of legal ownership unanswered, said Ahmad Amara, a consultant to the residents’ legal team.

He said the court gave the sides one week to respond.

The Supreme Court had been scheduled to issue a ruling in May, but it delayed its decision after the attorney general requested more time to consider the cases.

The threatened evictions fueled violent Arab protests and clashes in Jerusalem in the run-up to the 11-day Israel-Hamas war in May and afterwards.

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“The compromise that was suggested at the Supreme Court hearing today is not really a compromise.  It is a capitulation of the respected legal system in Israel, at the highest level, to political and ideological pressure from the extreme left,” Chaim Silberstein, head of Keep Jerusalem, said in a statement.

“It is a sad day when the rule of law, which is judiciously applied against Jews when their eviction is required by the liberal elites, is trampled on by our own elite Judges. This happens at a time when law and morality scream for justice against squatters who build illegally and defiantly refuse to pay rent despite generous offers of compromise from the legal Jewish owners.

“The just and correct result of this court case should be the immediate eviction of illegal squatters from properties they have withheld from their rightful owners for decades,” Silberstein said.

AP contributed to this report.