What happened?

On October 4, subsequent to the August 2 hearings on the eviction proceedings taken by East Jerusalem settlers against Palestinian residents in Sheikh Jarrah, the Supreme Court presented its proposal for an agreed settlement (for a detailed analysis of the state of play regarding the Sheikh Jarrah evictions in the wake of the Supreme Court hearing, read our detailed report here).

The following may be concluded from the terms of the proposed settlement and the court ruling (here is our verbatim translation of the decision):

  • The Court appears resolute in pursuing an agreed outcome, clearly disclosing that they wish to refrain from handing down a ruling. That said, the Court explicitly cited that in the absence of an agreement, they would “hand down its judgment based on the materials before it”.
  • Towards this end, each party has to respond to the Court’s proposal no later than November 2.
  • The Court’s proposal is very much in line with the oral arguments presented on August 2, with a number of revisions:
    • The settler corporation “will be recognized” as owners of the site, and the Palestinian residents “will be recognized” as protected tenancy subject to the provisions of the Protected Tenancy Law [Consolidated Version] 1972.
    • This recognition is not prejudicial to Palestinian claims of ownership to the land, claims they may assert during the settlement of registration of ownership proceedings. Consequently, the Palestinian residents may assert that they have not conclusively waived claims of ownership, and their right to pursue such claims are more than cosmetic.
    • The residents may carry out internal modifications and routine maintenance of their homes, without interference from the settlers.
    • The Palestinian residents have submitted to the Court the names of those deemed to be the “original” tenants, basically starting the period of tenancy anew, which creates the prospect – but not the certainty – of their remaining in these homes for many decades.
    • The Palestinian residents, in a thinly veiled fiction, will be required to pay their nominal rent (2400 sheqels annually) not to the settlers, but to their attorney.
    • The most problematic element of the settlement relates to the settlers’ ability to institute evictions even if the residents are not in violation of the agreement or of the tenancy laws. The settlers will be entitled to institute such proceedings in the event that the ownership rights are conclusively awarded to them, or after 15 years, the earlier of the two. This can be done if the settlers either wish to personally use the property or to demolish and rebuild. Under these circumstances, the settlers will need to offer the residents alternative equivalent quarters.

 

Conclusions

  • For the Palestinian residents. The settlement agreement proposed by the Court is a major achievement for the Palestinian residents and their legal counsel, and to those domestically and internationally who have supported their cause. It also falls far short of what the Palestinians aspire to, and leaves their rights and their ability to stay in their homes vulnerable, and each will become more vulnerable over time. They are confronting one of the most important decisions of their lives, with no good options. We are in no position to advise them on the correct course of action, nor speculate as to what that decision might be.
  • For the settlers. As we have noted in our previous report, the settlers have held their cards very close to their chests, and revealed little about their position on the proposed compromise. That said, it is difficult for us to see what incentives the settlers might have to accept the Court’s proposal. Indeed, some of the Palestinian residents have expressed “hope” that the settlers will reject the deal, thereby absolving the residents from making an excruciatingly painful decision.
  • The Court: the Court has left the door open for additional negotiations between the parties based on their proposal, and if there will be any interest disclosed by the parties, the Court can be expected to continue to press for agreement. If, however, the proposal is rejected, one may expect a ruling within a matter of days or weeks. It would be incorrect to assume that the Court will allow their verdict to be influenced by the position of either party on the compromise. It continues to appear more rather than less likely that if the Court indeed rules, that ruling will be in favor of the settlers.
  • The international community. Pending the decision over the proposed settlement, there is little that anyone in the international community can do that will have a direct impact on the course of events. That said, it is important to bear in mind that were it not for the achievements of the public campaign for the residents of Sheikh Jarrah, and intensive engagement by the international community, the situation of the residents would no doubt be worse. In addition, the current case is the first in a series of similar cases which threaten to displace Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan. This is not the time to relent.