Arab squatters from Sheikh Jarrah in court
Arab squatters from Sheikh Jarrah in courtYonatan Sindel/Flash90

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 Arabs who were displaced from Israel, charging them a nominal rent for the properties.

After Israel liberated the area in 1967, however, the Arab residents refused to pay rent, despite court orders recognizing the Jewish owners' rights over the property.

Now Israeli group that owns the properties is trying to evict the Arab families from the homes.

The neighborhood has been the site of legal battles, Arab riots, and harassment by local Arabs against Jewish residents.

Arab riots against 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 Arab families stay in the homes as “protected tenants” who are legally protected from eviction for life. In exchange they would have to pay a small amount of rent to the Israeli owners.

Supreme Court justice Yitzhak Amit
Supreme Court justice Yitzhak AmitYonatan Sindel/Flash90

“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 Arab residents formally recognize the Jewish residency rights. The Arab 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 Arabs’ attorneys to submit a list of people who are eligible for protected tenancy.