Terror victims' families to collect NIS 500 m. from Palestinian Authority

The Jerusalem District Court had ruled that the PA was liable back in July 2019, but since then Shurat Hadin had to prove their damages.

Palestinians man a burning barricade on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem's Old City as they fight violent clashes with Israeli Border Police, December 2000 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinians man a burning barricade on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem's Old City as they fight violent clashes with Israeli Border Police, December 2000
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Jerusalem District Court has ordered that around NIS 500 million be collected from the Palestinian Authority in civil damages for a series of terror attacks carried out mostly during the Second Intifada.
Despite the significant diplomatic implications, there was no sign from the Foreign Ministry or the Justice Ministry that anyone would stand in the way of collecting the funds from the PA.
Though the decision was handed down late Friday, it was announced by Shurat Hadin, which led the charge, on Sunday.
Jerusalem District Court Judge Moshe Drori had ruled that the PA was liable back in July 2019, but since then Shurat Hadin, on behalf of eight victims’ families and relating to 17 complaints, had to prove their damages.
Although the damages may total as high as NIS 1 billion, due to the complex diplomatic implications, Judge Moshe Sobol (Drori has retired) ruled on Friday that, at this stage, the collected damages will be around NIS 500m., and that even that collection will be spread out and into multiple components.
Some of the collected funds will be by an offset of funds paid by the PA to terrorists in prison and their families, while some of the collected funds will be collected on a spread-out monthly basis. The monthly basis funds will be collected from the more than NIS 500m. which Israel transfers in customs taxes on a monthly basis.
The idea is that only a fraction of the customs funds will be used each month to steadily pay down the new judgment, while most of the funds will still go to the PA so as not to cause a financial crisis.
It is unclear what position the Israeli government will take on the collection order due to the complex diplomatic implications, though outgoing justice minister Amir Ohana had been supportive of such measures.
Hussein al Sheikh, head of the Palestinian General Authority of Civil Affairs and member of the Fatah Central Committee, condemned the decision as "piracy and theft."
Al Sheikh said that "such decisions bring us closer to taking decisive decisions and fully implementing the resolutions of the Palestine National Council and Palestinian Central Council."
The two councils previously recommended that the Palestinian leadership suspended all relations with Israel, including security coordination, in response to the Israeli government's decision to deduct payments made by the PA to families of terrorists from tax revenues Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians.
The 17 complaints mostly come from the 2000-2002 period during the Second Intifada, including the infamous “Ramallah Lynching” in 2000. One claim also dated back to 1996 when there was an attack at Joseph’s Tomb.
Some of the attacks involve Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but the court still held the PA liable in July 2019 based on official PA statements taking credit for all of the terror attacks during the Second Intifada. Then Judge Moshe Drori added that the PA had also sometimes provided logistical or material support to other groups in carrying out the terror attacks.
More broadly, the court held the PA liable not only on the basis of such logistical and material direct support to terrorists, but also on the basis of continued financial support of terrorist prisoners and their families. Going even beyond financial support, the court noted that the PA regularly dedicates street names and other landmarks to terrorists.
Despite these rulings, the court denied arguments against the PA that said it had direct responsibility for certain specific attacks due to general statements of incitement.
The issue of the PA making “martyrs” payments to terrorists has led to significant public and legal fighting between Israel and the US on one hand, and the PA on the other. Israel and the US have portrayed the payments as support for terror, and both countries recently passed laws to penalize the PA monetarily for continuing the payments.
In response, the PA has been rejecting US and Israeli financial support. Some in the Israeli defense establishment have warned at times that the PA itself could collapse due to a lack of funds.
Groups in favor of penalizing the PA say that it is grandstanding, and that it is always able to find funds for wealthy top officials and high-end portions of the West Bank that the PA controls.
Commenting on the decision, Shurat Hadin President Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said that, “there is no more symbolic date than the Eve of Memorial Day, to give the families of the victims some small amount of solace in their extended years-long struggle.”
She said she would continue to seek “justice for those harmed by terror.”
In July 2019, she said the court’s “historic” decision showed that PA leader Yasser Arafat had tried to use war and murder, via the Second Intifada, to obtain concessions from Israel that he had not succeeded in getting through the Oslo negotiations.