Jerusalem District Court says Palestinian Authority responsible for some deaths, mostly during Second Intifada.
Accusing Palestinian leaders of being responsible for terrorism and other violent attacks, the Jerusalem District Court ruled on Monday that the Palestinian Authority was liable for civil damages in the cases of 17 attacks against Israelis, including both civilians and soldiers.
The attacks were carried out mostly between 2000 and 2002, during the Second Intifada. One claim dates back to an attack in 1996.
In its decision, the court specifically named the late PA president Yasser Arafat, as well as Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, as being behind the attacks. Barghouti is serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison in connection with several deadly attacks, including suicide bombings. Arafat died in 2004.
The decision enables the families of those who were killed or wounded in the 17 attacks in question to file claims for financial compensation against the PA. The plaintiffs in the court case – families of eight victims of the attacks – will now need to provide proof of their damages, which could amount to as much as NIS 1 billion (approximately $280 million).
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the Palestinian minster of information and spokesperson for the office of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, told The Media Line that the Israeli decision was illegitimate and the PA would not recognize it.
“There is no doubt that this decision comes as part of the multiple attacks on the PA,” he said. “We [reject] the decision.”
Abd al-Karim Shubier, a Palestinian expert on international law and a lecturer at various Palestinian universities, said the Israeli judiciary was legislating laws that went against international law and United Nation resolutions.
“The Israeli court has no right to make such a decision,” Shubier told The Media Line. “The decision is illegal and politicized to serve an occupying government.”
He said the decision was meant to weaken the Palestinian leadership.
“Israel is using the judiciary system to pressure the PA with laws, an infringement of international law,” he said.
Shubier explained that in cases where two conflicting parties of this type have a legal issue, they can approach the International Criminal Court in The Hague or take other diplomatic actions, such as formal negotiations.
“An occupying entity can’t file a lawsuit against the occupied people and their rulers,” he continued. “It is contrary to the rules of international justice.”
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the Israeli attorney from Shurat HaDin-Israeli Law Center who represented the Israeli families in court, told The Media Line that the case was civil and not criminal, and was between two private parties rather than countries, and as such the PA and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) could not claim immunity from claims of damages.
“The PA is a private entity; it’s not a sovereign state,” she said.
Darshan-Leitner said the court decision was based on Israeli law. In order to collect the damages, she explained, the families will first have to approach the Israeli government, which will need to decide how to deduct the sums from whatever payments it makes to the PA.
“This is a historic victory where the Palestinian leadership is found responsible for terrorist attacks, which proves that the [Second] Intifada was a war planned against the citizens of Israel,” she continued. “This is important, as people need to know that anyone that hurts a Jew will end up paying the price.”
She also criticized the PA policy of paying stipends to Palestinian prisoners and the families of those who were killed during violence.
Collette Avital, a retired Israeli diplomat and former Knesset member, told The Media Line that the decision was legal.
“The minute that an Israeli court issues an order, it is legal,” she said.
She added that the court had jurisdiction over the case because the attacks were carried out against Israeli citizens inside Israel.
“Even if there is a conflict between two countries, the affected party can legally ask for compensation,” she said.
However, Avital stressed that the decision was not realistic or implementable.
“The Palestinian economy is collapsing and the PA refuses to receive the rest of the tax money that Israel collects on its behalf,” she said.
In July of last year, the Israeli cabinet approved a law cutting funds to the PA in an amount equivalent to what it pays Palestinian security prisoners and the families of those who died in clashes with Israeli soldiers. In February, Israel deducted some $138 million from the tax revenues it collected on behalf of the PA, and the latter has now refused to receive the remaining funds.
The amount withheld by the Israelis is said to constitute some two-thirds of the PA’s total monthly revenues.