Ali Saada, along with Waal al-Arjeh, killed Asher Palmer and his baby son Yonatan in 2011 by throwing rocks at their vehicle..
(photo credit: COURTESY KIRYAT ARBA LOCAL COUNCIL)
A three-judge panel of the IDF’s Judea Military Court granted approximately NIS 3.3 million in punitive damages on Tuesday to the family of Asher and Yonatan Palmer, victims of a 2011 terror attack by Ali Saada and Waal al-Arjeh.
Despite the unanimous ruling to grant at least some symbolic damages to the family, though, the judges were split 2-1 about granting such a massive punitive compensatory damage award, with judges Amir Dahan and Steve Berman voting in favor and judge Ze’ev Afik voting for a lower amount.
The Palmer family’s lawyer, Adrian Agassi, called the decisions a “legal price tag” that could better deter future terrorism and possibly make it harder to release those sentenced in any future prisoner exchange deal.
Following an unprecedented December 2014 ruling in which a different three-judge Judea Military Court panel became the first to grant such a huge punitive damage award, the overall impact of this second ruling was to further solidify that trend.
The December ruling was issued against Saada, while Tuesday’s ruling was against Arjeh.
On the flip side, the 2-1 vote in which Afik voted for a much lower sum could give the defendants’ lawyer Khalid Araj a better chance should he appeal the rulings. Even the final amount of NIS 3.3m. was NIS 200,000 less than the earlier panel gave.
Afik explained that he was not against the family getting full compensation, but thought it was problematic for military criminal courts to deal with the issue. He said he believed that the Palmer family should file a separate civil suit, in a civilian court, for wrongful-death damages.
Ultimately the NIS 3.3m. figure was a compromise sum by Berman, falling between Dahan’s and Afik’s respective positions on the issue.
Both convicts have also received multiple life sentences in prison.
Agassi requested massive punitive damages in February 2014, but there was no decision for an extended period, likely in part due to the novelty of the issue. Civilian courts have a cap of around NIS 200,000 when granting punitive damages in similar cases.
Asher Palmer and his infant son, Yonatan, were killed when Arjeh threw a stone at their car on September 23, 2011. According to the IDF, Arjeh and Saada intentionally threw the stone from a moving taxi through the front windshield of Palmer’s vehicle. The stone broke the windshield, causing Palmer to lose control of the car, which eventually overturned.
Initially security forces thought Palmer and his son had died in a car accident on Route 60 outside the Kiryat Arba settlement.
It was days before the Defense Ministry recognized them as terror victims.
Both the NIS 3.5m. and NIS 3.3m. awards were lower than the NIS 10m. that Agassi originally requested, but were still unprecedented.
The sums were based on Agassi’s expansive reading of Section 182 of the applicable Security Law, which has no set financial limit. Until now, though, no one had pushed the limits like Agassi did. The attorney gave substantial credit to Asher’s father, Michael Palmer, for his perseverance and “taking on the system,” since, he said, the IDF prosecution would not originally have pushed for such high damages.
Regardless of the original IDF position, the IDF later joined in the push.