High Court: PA is liable for terrorism, can be sued by attack victims

A view of the Supreme Court building in Jerusalem. (Shmuel Bar-Am)
A view of the Supreme Court building in Jerusalem. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

Israel’s High Court rules that the Palestinian Authority can be held liable for its controversial policy of paying stipends to security prisoners in Israeli jails and those killed in confrontations with Israelis, including those who died committing deadly terror attacks.

Justice Yitzhak Amit writes in the ruling that the decision to pay convicted Palestinian terrorists and Palestinians killed as part of the “struggle against Israel” makes the PA liable for their actions.

“[The PA] expresses its consent to their actions, in a manner that takes responsibility for the acts. This justifies that [the PA] will be assigned personal and direct responsibility,” Amit writes.

Palestinians defend the payments as necessary social welfare for families who have lost a breadwinner. Critics slam the payment system — in which prisoners receive higher sums for higher prison terms — saying it effectively incentivizes terrorism.

The plaintiffs in the case are four families who lost loved ones in four separate terror attacks during the early days of the Second Intifada. The Jerusalem District Court rejected their petition, but the High Court, led by Amit, rules in their favor.

The legal debate in the High Court centered around to what extent Ramallah’s prisoner payments “retroactively authorized” the terror attacks committed by their beneficiaries.

Under Israeli damages law, a party can be held liable not only if they “provide counsel, aid… or order and permit” legal damage — but also if they retroactively “ratify” damage done to another.

The justice acknowledges that the decision is “precedent-setting and unusual” in its interpretation of the ratification clause in damages law.

Amit rules, however, that the PA can only be sued for compensation, rather than punitive damages. This means relatively lower payouts can be ordered by courts in which Ramallah may be tried.

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