The Supreme Court had asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit for his legal opinion on three Sheikh Jarrah families seeking permission to appeal in the top court against evictions.
Israel’s attorney general has declined to intervene in the cases of three Palestinian families seeking permission for a Supreme Court appeal against their evictions from Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem. Their evictions are expected to be carried out — possibly in the coming weeks.
A request by the attorney general at the height of the tensions last month led to the postponement of a Supreme Court hearing on the most imminent evictions, of four extended families comprising six households in Sheikh Jarrah.
The Supreme Court had asked Avichai Mandelblit to submit his legal opinion after which the court was going to decide how to proceed on three families' request for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The families lost the appeal of their eviction in the Jerusalem District Court.
But in a statement issued on Monday, Mandelblit said “there is no place” for him to intervene in the proceedings. That sends the matter back to the Supreme Court, which is expected to rule against the families.
Mendelbilt's legal opinion is not expected to prevent their pending eviction, Haaretz reported, quoting officials in his office who said the Palestinian families' case was too weak.
"A multiplicity of legal cases over the years" and "the factual and legal determinations" on Sheikh Jarrah was cited in his statement as a reason for his decision.
Israeli aggression was preceded by weeks of violence by Israeli police against Palestinian demonstrators in the Old City and in the nearby neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where Jewish settlers have waged a decades-long campaign to evict Palestinian families from their homes.
The settlers have been waging a decades-long campaign to evict the families from densely populated Palestinian neighbourhoods in the so-called Holy Basin just outside the walls of the Old City, in one of the most sensitive parts of occupied East Jerusalem.
Renewed tensions in occupied East Jerusalem or another assault on Gaza could complicate Israel's shaky politics. Netanyahu's opponents last week said they have formed a coalition that could remove the prime minister from office after a 12-year term.
The new coalition is expected to be sworn into office in the coming days.
Israel captured occupied East Jerusalem, which is home to sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, in the 1967 war and annexed it in a move not recognised internationally.
Palestinians want occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Illegal settlers are using a 1970 law that allows Jews to reclaim formerly Jewish properties lost during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation, a right denied to Palestinians who lost property in the same conflict.
At least 150 Palestinian households, in Sheikh Jarrah and the neighbourhood of Silwan, both near the Old City, are at risk of eventual eviction.
READ MORE: Naksa: A regional reminder
'It paves the way for evictions to be carried out'
Ir Amim, an Israeli human rights group that closely follows the various court cases, says four families could be evicted within the coming month, and that the attorney general's decision could affect the cases of more than 80 other families threatened with eviction.
“It paves the way for the evictions to be carried out,” said Amy Cohen, a spokeswoman for Ir Amim. But she added that Israeli authorities still have various options for postponing or halting the evictions. “There still is room for political intervention,” she said.
The threatened evictions have been widely criticised internationally, including by the United States, Israel's closest ally.
The families in Sheikh Jarrah are stuck in limbo. A total of at least 65 families in two areas of the neighbourhood are threatened with eviction, according to Ir Amim, including a group of families set to be evicted in August.
For Palestinians, the evictions conjure bitter memories of what they refer to as the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” of Israel's creation when some 700,000 Palestinians – a majority of the population – fled or were driven from their homes as the new state battled five Arab armies. Most ended up in refugee camps in the occupied West Bank, Gaza and neighbouring countries.
Ir Amim estimates that settler organisations have already evicted 10 families in Sheikh Jarrah and at least 74 families in Silwan, a few kilometres (miles) away, in the last few decades.