Seven Palestinian families facing the threat of forced eviction from their homes in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah have rejected a proposal from Israel’s High Court that justices said could resolve the decades-long dispute.
The court asked the families to submit their response by Tuesday to a plan that would see them offered protected tenancy status for 15 years in exchange for accepting – via a rental payment of 2,400 shekels ($750) per year – that the land belongs to Nahalat Shimon Limited, a Jewish settler organization seeking to develop the area for Jewish housing.
Announcing their position at a press conference in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, family members said the court proposal was a means of temporarily delaying plans to remove them from their homes and confiscate land.
The families have been living in Sheikh Jarrah since the 1950s after fleeing homes the previous decade in Haifa, Jaffa and other towns which became part of the state of Israel. They say their situation is unfair because they are not able to reclaim those original homes, while standing to lose residences for which they gave up their refugee status more than 60 years ago.
Tensions in the neighborhood rose earlier this year when it appeared the case was coming to a conclusion, and which Hamas used in part as a pretext for firing rockets at Jerusalem, triggering an 11-day war between Gaza militants and the Israeli army.
A Hamas-linked organization had made clear its opposition to the High Court proposal, writing in a letter to one of the lawyers involved that they had a “national, moral and legal responsibility” to reject it.
Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority, also said it had “clearly informed the families and their lawyers that we are categorically against the proposal, and we will stand by them and will not allow them to be thrown into the street.”
But family members denied that they had taken their decision under duress, saying they had reached it independently.
There has been no response from the High Court, but justices have previously said that if their proposal was rejected they would issue a binding decision at some point.