Jerusalem24 – The Jerusalem District Court issued the ruling last Tuesday that the Palestinian Authority (PA) should pay NIS 130 million to 32 Israeli families whose relatives were killed by Palestinians in attacks during the Second Intifada between 2000 and 2005.
According to Israeli media, Tuesday’s ruling comes after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in April that the PA’s practice of paying stipends to the families of Palestinians detained in Israel prisons constitutes “approval” of attacks against Israelis, meaning that the PA can be legally sued for compensation.
An Arab News report on 12 April quoted a senior PA security official as saying: “This is piracy of the PA’s money and a collective punishment against the Palestinian people.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling came in complement to a July 2019 ruling by the Jerusalem District Court that the PA and PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) were not state bodies that could claim immunity from damages claims, paving the way for the Israeli families to sue the PA in Israeli courts after several failed attempts in US courts.
Mossad involvement in failed US lawsuits
In a 2003 lawsuit against the PA and the PLO, a group of Israeli-American plaintiffs sought nearly $900 million in compensation under the Anti-Terrorism Act, a US law that allows victims of international terrorism to sue individuals, organizations, and institutions in US courts. In this case, the court of appeals in Washington DC found that US courts “lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendants” and threw out the case in April 2020.
A similar lawsuit was brought to US courts in 2004 by Shurat HaDin, whose lawyers represent the families in the current lawsuit against the PA. The 2004 lawsuit was eventually dismissed entirely by the US Supreme Court in 2018.
Shurat HaDin, also known as the Israeli Law Center, has been engaged in “hundreds” of high-profile cases around the world since it was founded in 2003 – not only against the PA and PLO, but also private individuals who were targeted for their pro-Palestinian stance.
A 2007 Wikileaks cable revealed that Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the founder of Shurat HaDin, had been “provided with intelligence” from Mossad (Israel’s national intelligence agency), and that “in its early years” the organization “took direction” from the Israeli government “on which cases to pursue.”
According to Israeli media reports, Shurat HaDin intend to appeal Tuesday’s ruling in their favor in order to seek even greater compensation.
It was not immediately clear whether the NIS 130 million compensation would be directly deducted from Israel’s monthly disbursement of tax revenues to the PA. As per the Oslo Accords Israel collects tax revenues on behalf of the PA, and regularly withholds these as a punitive measure for what is sees as non-compliant behavior from the PA.
PA spokesperson Ibrahim Melhem told Jerusalem24 that it is “common practice” for Israel to deduct money from the tax revenues and that the PA does not approve or agree with any deductions.
“They hold the money and we have no say in those deductions,” said Melhem. “Whether it’s a decision by the courts or the Israeli government makes no difference to the fact that these are arbitrary deductions.”
The PA is currently indebted to the tune of $2.37 billion, and regularly delays payment of public sector workers’ salaries for months at a time as well as defaulting on payments to cover East Jerusalem hospital bills.