Paving the way for expanding Jewish enclaves in Palestinian neighborhoods

Mid-November was also marked by a series of legal decisions and legislation – briefly described below – that carry major ramifications, as they pave the way for a major expansion of the Jewish settlement enterprise and Israeli presence in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods (each of these developments requires closer examination in order to fully grasp their ramifications; we will provide such examination in upcoming editions of Insiders’ Jerusalem).

Amendment paves the way for legally expanding Jewish settlement enclave in the heart of Silwan – A proposed amendment to the National Parks, Nature Reserves and Memorial Sites Law (amendment No. 17) moved on November 19 to Knesset second and third readings (details/background available at the Knesset website in Hebrew). The amendment was initiated by a multi-party coalition of Knesset members (MK Nurit Koren (Likud), Roy Folkman (Kulanu), Uri Maklev (Degel HaTorah) and Shuli Moalem (the Jewish Home). It is specifically designed to enable Silwan settlers (led by the Elad organization) to expand their presence within Silwan by bypassing restrictions imposed on urban construction within a national park (see drafted amendment – Hebrew). We initially reported on it here. This legislation, the provisions of which were tailored to the aspirations of the Silwan settlers, will allow the settlers to radically change the nature of Silwan, allowing large-scale construction unheard of in any other area designated by Israel as a national or archeological park. This construction is part and parcel of the settler takeover of the public domain, posing unprecedented threats to both the Palestinian residents and the integrity of one of the most important archaeological sites on the planet.

Israeli High Court greenlights eviction of 700 Palestinians in Batan Al Hawa – On November 22, 2018, the High Court rejected the petition of the residents of the Palestinian neighborhood of Batan al Hawa (Silwan). The residents are threatened with displacement by the settler organisation Ateret Cohanim, which claims ownership over the properties of 700 Palestinians living in that area (see Betselem’s detailed report here). If implemented, this will be the largest mass displacement of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank since 1967. This decision of the court comes despite the fact that the State attorney – a senior official in the Ministry of Justice – recognized in a hearing last June that the transfer of rights to the land from the Custodian General to Ateret Cohanim in 2002 was flawed (see our report here). With this decision, the Israeli High Court removed one of the last obstacles in the settlers’ legal battle to evict these families and extend their foothold in Batan Al Hawa/Silwan. Before proceeding with the displacement  of the Palestinian residents, the court asked the settlers’ organization to clarify in a lower court the original classification of the land, which could affect the ownership right of the Cohanim’s trust.

Israeli High Court approved the eviction of 40 Palestinian residents from Sheikh Jarrah – This is another case that displays the fundamental legal asymmetry in Israel law: on the one hand, it enables and supports Jews seeking to evict Palestinian residents from properties in East Jerusalem, based on Jewish ownership claims that pre-date the 1948 War; on the other hand, it explicitly prohibits these same Palestinian residents from regain their properties inside Israel based on the same grounds (via Israel’s Absentee Law). The Palestinians in this case are members of the Sabag family, who have lived in Sheikh Jarrah since 1956. Their eviction was requested by the Nahalat Shimon company, led by a settler activist, which claims ownership of the land. A petition of the Sabag family fighting the eviction was rejected based on the statute of limitations (for further details/links see here). This case is likely to have implications for other pending evictions efforts targeting other families in Sheikh Jarrah. Consequently, the ruling jeopardizes not only the parties to this suit, but tens of other Palestinian families facing eviction proceedings.