Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Palestinian Authority of “endangering regional stability” and allying itself with terrorists as he lauded the landmark verdict against the PA and PLO by a New York court on Monday.
“The US federal court decision determines the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority for the murderous terrorist attacks of the previous decade,” he said in a statement released Monday evening.
“Instead of drawing the requisite lesson, the Palestinian Authority is advancing steps that endanger regional stability such as the hypocritical application to the International Criminal Court even as it is allied with the Hamas terrorist organization. We expect the responsible elements in the international community to continue to punish those who support terrorism just as the US federal court has done and to back the countries that are fighting terrorism.”
“Today as well we remember the families that lost their loved ones; our heart is with them and there is no justice that can console them,” Netanyahu added.
The US court ruled earlier in the day that the Palestinian leadership was deemed responsible for six terror attacks over a decade ago that maimed and killed several US citizens. The jury awarded the victims $218.5 million in damages for the bloodshed, which killed 33 people overall, and wounded more than 390. The US Anti-Terrorism Act could allow for that sum to be tripled.
Eleven families served as plaintiffs in the case.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman called the ruling a “moral victory” for Israel and terror victims.
He said the verdict should serve as a wake-up call for the Palestinians and their backers abroad, informing them that terror was “an integral part” of the PA.
The court decision “is first and foremost a moral victory for the State of Israel and for the victims of terrorism,” Liberman said in a statement. He added that the decision confirmed what most people knew “but many in the world did not want to admit due to hypocrisy, foreign interests, or anti-Semitism.”
He said the ruling should serve as a “wake-up call” to the Palestinians and their supporters “to recognize that terror is an integral part of the structure of the PA.”
Liberman accused the Palestinian leadership of “glorifying terror,” a phenomenon he termed “a disease that must be uprooted through reeducation.”
The PLO and Palestinian Authority had no immediate comment.
None of the victims was in the courtroom Monday for the verdict, but their lawyers called it a victory in the fight against terrorism.
An attorney assisting the prosecution vowed to make the Palestinian authorities pay the damages in full, arguing that if the Palestinian authorities can continue to compensate the families of terrorists, “then they have the money to pay these victims of Palestinian terrorism.”
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the director of the Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center, also said Monday evening that the “historic verdict” against the Palestinian leadership proved that “suicide terrorism was indeed their official policy during the Second Intifada.”
“The defendants have already been boasting that they will appeal the decision and we will never collect on the judgment,” a statement from Darshan-Leitner said. “We will not allow them to make a mockery of the US court process, however, and we continue to pursue them until it is paid in full. If the PA and PLO have the funds to pay the families of suicide bombers each month, then they have the money to pay these victims of Palestinian terrorism.”
The cash-strapped PA is expected to appeal the verdict and protest that it does not have the funds, in part due to a tax freeze imposed on it by Jerusalem after it joined the International Criminal Court in order to pursue war crimes charges against Israel. The conviction and involvement in terror activity will likely give Israel more fodder to counter the Palestinian ICC bid.
Darshan-Leitner said that while the “historic verdict” would not bring the defendants’ relatives back, it “is an important measure of justice and closure for them after their long years of tragic suffering and pain.”
Attorney Kent Yalowitz had urged the Manhattan jury to order the PLO and Palestinian Authority to pay $350 million for providing material support to terrorists involved in six bombings and shootings from 2002 to 2004.
No amount could make up for the human toll, he said. “But if the only thing you can give them is money, then money has to stand in as compensation for the unspeakable loss,” he added.
“It’s about accountability. It’s about justice,” Yalowitz said.
Defense attorney Mark Rochon had argued there was no proof Palestinian authorities sanctioned the attacks as alleged in a 2004 lawsuit brought by 10 American families, even though members of their security forces were convicted in Israeli courts on charges they were involved.
“What they did, they did for their own reasons … not the Palestinian Authority’s,” he said in federal court in Manhattan.
The suit against the PLO and Palestinian Authority and the other against the Jordan-based Arab Bank had languished for years as the defendants challenged the American courts’ jurisdiction. Recent rulings found that they should go forward under the Anti-Terrorism Act, a more than two-decade-old law that allows victims of US-designated foreign terrorist organizations to seek compensation for pain and suffering, loss of earnings and other hardship.
The plaintiffs also relied on internal records showing the Palestinian Authority continued to pay the salaries of employees who were put behind bars in terror cases and paid benefits to families of suicide bombers and gunmen who died committing the attacks.
AP contributed to this report.