Israel Won't Intervene in Sheikh Jarrah Case, Making Eviction of Palestinian Families More Likely

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Protesters demonstrate against the eviction in Sheikh Jarrah, last month
Protesters demonstrate against the eviction in Sheikh Jarrah, last monthCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Israel's attorney general informed the Supreme Court on Monday he will not intervene in the high-profile eviction case before the court against Palestinian families of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, in a move officials say bodes ill for the chances of stopping their slated eviction.

Officials in Avichai Mendelblit's office say they believe the families' case is too weak and that his legal opinion would not be able to prevent their pending eviction. A source close to Mendelblit told Haaretz that the political leadership backs the decision to refrain from arguing before the court on behalf of the state.

In a statement, Mendeblit cited "a multiplicity of legal cases over the years" and "the factual and legal determinations" concerning the Sheikh Jarrah plots as a reason for his decision, claiming any arguments made by him in this case are unlikely to change its outcome.

Last month, the court ordered Mendelblit to submit a legal opinion on the eviction case that has sparked a wave of protests and has drawn international attention, and the State Prosecutor's Office had asked the court to delay its decision until Mendelblit decides his position.

Justice Isaac Amit granted the request by the State Prosecutor's Office and gave Mendelblit until June 8 to submit his legal opinion, approving extra time the attorney general asked for. Mendelblit's latest statement now means the court isn't expected to wait for any other material before ruling on the case.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, last weekCredit: Emil Salman

The case was filed by Nahalat Shimon, a company that acquired the interests of Jewish families who lived the neighborhood prior to Israel's establishment in 1948.

It directly affects three Sheikh Jarrah families, but there are several similar cases pending ruling, and any decision by Israel's top court is likely to affect those as well, potentially paving the way for the eviction of at least dozens of Palestinian families.

Peace Now criticized Mendelblit's decision in a statement, calling it "a cynical attempt to evade responsibility." It called on the state "to present to the public and to the court its stance, as families are thrown out into the street by employing a set of laws that discriminates between Israelis and Palestinians." 

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