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Aug 6, 2008 – The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a ruling by Jerusalem District Court and ordered it to hear a lawsuit filed by a Jewish land-purchasing company in the West Bank demanding compensation from the Palestinian Authority for failing to enforce an Israeli court judgment.
The case involves the Alon Moreh Land of Israel Seminary Association, which is represented by attorney Nitzana Darshan-Leitner. The company bought land from Palestinians after a village mukhtar attested to the fact that they owned it. However, it turned out that the mukhtarÂ¹s affidavit was false. The company sued the estate of the mukhtar in an Israeli court and won. In an appendix to the 1995 Interim Agreement between Israel and the PA, Israel and the Palestinian National Council agreed to enforce the rulings of each otherÂ¹s courts.
However, the PA did not enforce the ruling against the mukhtarÂ¹s estate. On April 23, 2006, Jerusalem District Court rejected the lawsuit. Judge Boaz Okun ruled that the interim agreement had changed the status of the Palestinian Authority in Israeli law and that it therefore had the status of a quasi-sovereign body and that, although not recognized as a state, it had the three main components of statehood: a territory, a population and a government. Therefore, the company could not sue it. Darshan-Leitner appealed the lower court decision.
In the meantime, the Supreme Court ruled on an appeal against a Jerusalem District Court decision on a similar matter. Some 15 lawsuits had been filed for damages against the PA, regarding either personal or economic suffering because of terrorism for which the PA was allegedly responsible. There, too, the question revolved around the status of the PA, that is, whether or not it was a sovereign government that could not be sued by individuals from another country.
The Supreme Court ruled that the determination of whether or not the PA was a sovereign body was relative. It had to do with the specific PA action under consideration. If the action was defined as ‘an act of government,’ the PA could not be sued. If it was not an ‘act of government,’ it could be sued. The only institution authorized to determine whether or not the PAÂ¹s action in any given lawsuit was an act of government, meaning that in such a case the PA was a sovereign body and could not be sued, was the Foreign Ministry. The courts could not do so.
Therefore, the Supreme Court ruled that each of the 15 lawsuits had to be heard separately and the Foreign Ministry had to determine the Plaintiff’s status in each one. In the event, the Foreign Ministry declared in each of the 15 cases that the plaintiffs could indeed sue the PA. Based on this ruling, the Supreme Court concluded that the case of the Alon Moreh Land of Israel Seminary Association must be returned to the Jerusalem District Court and the court must ask the Foreign Ministry to decide whether or not the PA could be sued.