In September 2010 the Supreme Court of Israel rejected Palestinian appeals claiming ownership of 57 housing units in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem – where dozens of Palestinian families have resided since the days of Jordanian control over East Jerusalem – and accepted the claim of Jewish ownership of the property. This ruling combines with earlier, similar rulings in laying the legal foundation for eviction of Palestinian families from two adjacent compounds and settlement of Jews in the neighborhood. The ruling of September 2010 is another instance in a long series of events involving legal proceedings that address private property rights and are in discord, possibly even in conflict, with Israel’s political interests.
This paper aims to analyze the strategic implications of Jewish settlement in the heart of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood for the State of Israel’s vital interests. It also aims to examine the various tools available to the authorities in addressing this issue and in conveying to decision makers the need to formulate a policy of action that accords with the interests of the State of Israel.
Jewish settlement in Sheikh Jarrah (in the compounds of Shimon HaTzadik and Nahalat Shimon/Umm Haroun) reflects a growing pattern of Jewish settlement in the heart of Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem based in part on legal proceedings addressing the private property rights of Jews. There have indeed been a few previous instances of reclaimed ownership and possession of Jewish property in an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem, but the Sheikh Jarrah affair involves an effort to evict the residents of two entire compounds housing dozens of Palestinian families.
Sheikh Jarrah has historical significance with respect to the national and religious identity of both Palestinians and Jews, and this significance is being invoked in the current conflict between the two sides. The location of the neighborhood –between East and West Jerusalem, at the crossroads linking the Old City to Mount Scopus and to the northeast part of the city, amidst consulates and centers of international organizations – grants it geopolitical importance at the municipal and international levels.