Israeli court rules PA must pay $150 million in damages to terror victims

Ruling allows for funds to be taken from tax money Israel collects on behalf of Palestinians; legal advocacy group has asked for more than $2 billion in compensation

Police and paramedics inspect the scene after a suicide bomber blew himself up on a rush-hour bus near the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo during the Second Intifada, on June 18, 2002. (Flash90/File)
Illustrative: Police and paramedics inspect the scene after a suicide bomber blew himself up on a rush-hour bus near the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo during the Second Intifada, on June 18, 2002. (Flash90/File)

The Jerusalem District Court has ordered the Palestinian Authority to pay nearly $150 million in damages to the families of people killed in terror attacks.

The decision comes following a lawsuit brought by Shurat Hadin, an Israeli legal advocacy group, on behalf of relatives of victims from a number of attacks, mostly carried out during the Second Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, in the early 2000s. A previous court ruling from last year found the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization to be liable for those attacks, along with other actors.

In its decision Friday, the Jerusalem court ruled that the funds would come from tax money that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians. Shurat Hadin had asked that more than $2 billion be paid in compensation.

The court gave Israel until next month to appeal the decision if it wants the order annulled. Israel might consider appealing if it fears the freezing of the funds could destabilize the cash-strapped Palestinian government.

“We continue to fight even 20 years later and we will not rest until we achieve justice for terror victims,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the head of Shurat Hadin.

Hussein al-Sheikh, the Palestinian official who coordinates the Palestinian Authority’s communication with Israel, called the decision “piracy and and theft of Palestinian money.”

In July 2019, Jerusalem District Court Judge Moshe Drori ruled that the PA and PLO were not state bodies that could claim immunity from damages claims. He also cited the PLO’s longtime policy of paying stipends to imprisoned terrorists and the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks, and said both the PA and PLO had played a role in inciting the Palestinian public into attacking Israelis.

The bodies carry responsibility for “financial and practical support” as well as ideological encouragement for the attacks, he wrote. The ruling covered attacks carried by groups allied with the PA and PLO, as well as by rivals Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Drori claimed that the PA and PLO officials lionized the killers of Israeli civilians in official publications, in public rallies, and by naming streets and city squares after them.

The Second Intifada, or “uprising,” was a four-year wave of Palestinian violence in 2000-2004 that included over 130 suicide bombings targeting Israeli city centers and civilian life.

Under interim peace deals, Israel collects customs duties and other taxes on behalf of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, and transfers the funds to the Palestinians each month. These transfers cover a sizable chunk of the Palestinian government’s budget.

Israel has in the past frozen the transfers to penalize the Palestinians for certain policies or actions.

The court ruling comes as relations between Israel and the Palestinians are at a low, with a new Israeli government expected to work toward annexing parts of the West Bank, which the Palestinians want for their future state.

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