(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
An NGO announced on Thursday that it has asked the High Court of Justice to block Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon from defending Israeli banks for their links to Palestinians banks that might implicate them in terrorism financing.
The NGO, Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center represents the families of several Israelis murdered by terrorists, including Hallel Yaffa Ariel and Danny Gonen, and filed the petition on Wednesday.
A Palestinian intruder killed Israeli-American Ariel, 13, as she slept in her bedroom in Kiryat Arba this past June. A Hamas gunman shot Danny Gonen, 25, from Lod, at pointblank range when he and a friend stopped to help the Palestinian in the West Bank in June 2015.
According to the petition, Bank Hapoalim and Bank Discount each concluded on their own that they may be exposed to litigation for their connections to various Palestinian banks which it says are linked to terrorism financing.
Shurat Hadin supports these conclusions, presenting its US federal trial court victory against the PLO in 2015 in which the US court found Palestinian banks were regularly paying imprisoned terrorists, their families and the families of “martyred” suicide terrorists.
Next, the petition said that Bank Hapoalim notified Kahlon that it would discontinue business with various Palestinian banks if the government did not protect Bank Hapoalim from future liability.
Kahlon and the government wished the Israeli banks to continue their business with the Palestinian banks out of concern for the latter’s stability and Israeli-Palestinian relations and sought to reassure the Israeli banks.
When US Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew visited Israel in October he supported the Israeli banks’ continuation of ties with the Palestinian banks out of concern for Israeli-Palestinian relations, only asking for careful checks by the Palestinian banks regarding the use of their funds, said the petition.
Following Lew’s visit, Kahlon committed to picking up any cost incurred by the Israeli banks should they be sued because of their connections to the Palestinians banks which were allegedly linked to terrorism financing.
Shurat Hadin had already sent a letter to Kahlon and the Israeli banks threatening to sue them for violating terrorism, money-laundering and organized crime laws if they did not break ties with the Palestinian banks.
The NGO accused Kahlon of ignoring cold facts it has presented proving the Palestinian banks links to terrorism financing and said it is illegal for him to ignore such illegalities simply out of concern for vague policy considerations regarding Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Focused on getting the Israeli banks to cut ties with the Palestinian banks, Shurat Hadin asked the High Court to order Kahlon to stand down from defending the Israeli banks from future liability.
Without Kahlon defending them, and the NGO said it was unconscionable for the government to defend banks from terrorism financing liability; the implication was the Israeli banks would return to their original decision to cut ties – Shurat Hadin’s goal.