The Israeli defense establishment is weighing the possibility of providing assistance to Jewish organizations abroad who wish to sue Palestinian terrorists for war crimes against Israeli civilians, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Faced with an international legal campaign by Palestinian and pro-Palestinian activists who seek to file lawsuits against senior visiting Israeli military officials, defense chiefs have long been considering fighting fire with fire.
But a security source warned that reservations about legitimizing universal jurisdiction for foreign courts not recognized by Israel have kept a lid on such ideas up to now.
While direct Israeli legal engagement would "encourage others on the other side to do the same," the source said, helping Jewish organizations abroad lead the legal counterattack was being viewed more positively.
One possible drawback in providing assistance to Jewish organizations involved the risk of exposing intelligence sources, who feed the defense establishment with information on the activities of senior Palestinian terrorists.
Potential future lawsuits would need to prove that individual terrorists gave direct orders for war crimes to be committed, and much of that evidence comes from electronic eavesdropping and classified intelligence sources.
Still, the security source said, there was a great deal of available evidence against senior terrorists that could be made public without jeopardizing the intelligence sources.
In the meantime, countries whose courts were being exploited to wage legal war on Israel were embarrassed by the situation, the source argued, adding that "no one can assure the British, French or Belgians that their military officials will not face a war crimes lawsuit. Every country has its weaknesses."
Alan Baker, Israel's former ambassador to Canada, who has served as a legal adviser to the foreign minister, said it would be advisable for Israel to refrain from directly suing terrorists abroad, but concurred with the security chief that allowing Jewish organizations to lead the way would be a positive development.
"For years, the American Jewish Committee has been considering the possibility of instituting prosecution against Palestinian terrorists in US courts," said Baker.
But even if Jewish organizations form the vanguard for a counter-legal war, the dilemma of creating an endless tit-for-tat international legal battle remained, he warned.