Palestinian Landowners File Objection Against US Plan for Jerusalem Embassy on their Stolen Property

The submission to the Israeli planning authorities, the US Ambassador to Israel and Secretary of State, by Adalah coincides with the visit of US Secretary of State Blinken to Israel and the PA. Blinken has not responded to demands made by heirs to the land, some of which are US citizens, to cancel the plan.
On 21 June 2023, the Jerusalem District Planning Committee rejected the objection filed by Adalah, on behalf of 12 descendants of the original Palestinian landowners of the proposed site upon which the Embassy may be built. The Committee stated that "the State of Israel is the owner of the entire compound included in the plan". The Committee additionally claimed that the Israel Land Authority (ILA), as an authorized authority established by law, is entitled to submit plans even for areas not under its ownership, in accordance with the provisions of the Planning and Building Law. Therefore, the Committee concluded that the plan – put forward by the US State Department and US Embassy – had been submitted in compliance with the applicable Israeli laws.

Furthermore, the Committee held that Adalah's arguments relate to property aspects that are beyond its jurisdiction to decide upon. As a result, the committee declined to substantively examine the claims brought by the Palestinian landowners whose land was confiscated.

CLICK HERE to read the decision [Hebrew]


Today, 30 January 2023, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, filed an objection to the Jerusalem District Planning Committee, the United States Ambassador to Israel Thomas R. Nides, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken against the plan to build the US embassy in Jerusalem on illegally confiscated Palestinian Land. (Plan 101-0810796 - “Diplomatic Compound – USA, Hebron Road, Jerusalem”).


CLICK HERE to read an English translation of the objection 


CLICK HERE to read the objection [Hebrew]


The objection was filed by Adalah’s Legal Director Dr. Suhad Bishara on behalf of 12 of the descendents of the original Palestinian owners of the land upon which the State Department is seeking to build. These descendents include four U.S. citizens, three Jordanian residents, and five East Jerusalem residents. Israel confiscated the land from the original owners using the 1950 Israeli Absentees’ Property Law. Archival records, found in the Israeli State Archives and published by Adalah in July 2022, clearly prove that the land was owned by Palestinian families and leased temporarily to British Mandate authorities before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. 


The objection was sent to the United States Ambassador to Israel and U.S. Secretary of State with a letter emphasizing that if the U.S. proceeds with this plan, it will be a full-throated endorsement of Israel’s illegal confiscation of private Palestinian property and the State Department will become an active participant in violating the private property rights of its own citizens. 


CLICK HERE to read Adalah’s letter


The Israeli-US plan was submitted to the Israeli planning authorities in February 2021, as drafted by the Chicago-based architectural firm Krueck Sexton Partners, in collaboration with the Israeli company Yigal Levy Architects, after a discussion that four State Department officials participated in. 

 CLICK HERE to view the archival materials


U.S. State Department officials have recently claimed that the U.S. has not yet made a decision as to whether or not to move forward with this construction plan and that they are still deciding between use of the Allenby Barracks or the alternative ‘Arnona site’ that is being advanced simultaneously, stating that they have “not decided on which site to pursue”. However, State Department Representatives clarified that “the State Department needs to develop both properties...We cannot commit to this or that site until we have ownership and possession of the site….Once a site is chosen we will use that site for the Embassy and we will use the other site as well. We need these two properties, we have a large number of employees in Israel.”


In the objection, Adalah argued that the confiscation of the land on which the US Diplomatic Compound is to be built violates international law, in particular, Article 46 of the Hague Regulations. These regulations state the need to respect the right of private property and explicitly prohibit the confiscation of private property. Adalah emphasized that the 1950 Israeli Absentees’ Property Law is one of the most arbitrary, sweeping, discriminatory, and draconian law enacted in the state of Israel. The law was drafted with racist motives and its sole purpose was to expropriate the assets of Palestinians – both refugees and internally displaced persons. 


Adalah further argued that the implementation of the plan is a violation of international law, just as moving the embassy to Jerusalem and declaring it the capital of Israel was in the first instance. This violates the city’s special status under international law. Under UN General Assembly resolutions, Jerusalem has a special separate status (corpus separatum). Moving the embassy to Jerusalem, regardless of where it is located or will be located, ignores the international consensus as to the city’s special status and signals the approval of Israel’s illegal annexation. 


On 31 January 2023, at 1 PM EST/8 PM Palestine time (via Zoom)  Adalah, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Institute for Middle East Understanding, and the Institute for Palestine Studies will hold a webinar concerning the US State Department’s plan, the objection, and the US’s complicity in Israel’s violations of international law. The event will be moderated by Josh Ruebner with panelists Suhad Bishara, Diala Shamas, and Rashid Khalidi. 




Photo credit: U.S. Embassy Jerusalem, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons