J Street is deeply concerned by the ongoing, incendiary efforts of Israeli settler groups to evict hundreds of Palestinians from the East Jerusalem homes that they have lived in for decades.
While the provocative and unjust attempts to ‘Judaize’ primarily Palestinian neighborhoods like Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan have steadily moved forward for many years, recent escalations and the imminent threat of many new evictions have led to alarming confrontations — in which Palestinians protesting in defense of their homes have faced attacks by settlers and repression by the Israeli authorities. Israel’s Supreme Court is preparing to rule this month on Palestinian appeals to halt the evictions — and has now asked the Israeli attorney general to weigh in with a government recommendation by the end of May.
It’s therefore critical that the Biden administration urgently warn the Israeli government that these provocative and unjust evictions are illegal under international law and have dangerous ramifications for Jerusalem and the wider region. The European Union and a number of members of Congress have already spoken out publicly on this issue — the US administration should do the same.
The administration should also make clear that no US-sourced military equipment may be used by Israeli police or security forces facilitating the evictions or engaging in repressive actions against Palestinians peacefully protesting them. Use of US-origin military equipment in connection with these activities would constitute a violation of US law and, to the extent such equipment was purchased with US security assistance, be inconsistent with the purpose of military aid under the relevant Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel.
In an incredibly tense and sensitive city like Jerusalem, confrontations between Palestinian residents, aggressive settlers and Israeli police have the potential to spiral further out of control, as we’ve seen in recent weeks. That’s particularly true as far-right Israeli political leaders seek to stoke the flames and continue to also pursue destabilizing changes to the status quo on the highly sensitive Temple Mount.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s decision to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and disregard Palestinian hopes to form their own future capital in East Jerusalem — as well as the closing of the US Jerusalem consulate that focused on relations with Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza — have undermined American diplomatic standing and impact. The current situation underscores the need for the Biden administration to reopen the consulate as soon as possible, and to engage in proactive diplomacy to promote peace, human rights and international law in the city.