Palmers' killer sentenced to 2 life sentences

Judean Military Court gives Waal al-Arjeh 2 life sentences plus 58 years for the murder of Asher Palmer and his infant son.

Funeral of Kiryat Arba car accident victims 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Funeral of Kiryat Arba car accident victims 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
The Judea Military Court sentenced Waal al-Arjeh to two life sentences plus 58 years on Tuesday for the murder of Asher Palmer, 25, and his infant son, Yonatan, in 2011.
In a series of heart-rending moments leading up to the court’s decision, Asher’s father, Michael Palmer, spoke about his son and grandson, killed when Arjeh threw a stone through the windshield of their car. He recalled arriving at the family home to see “a gurney with Asher’s body wrapped in a tallit, and a little box on top, in the box was Yonatan’s body.”
At one point he gestured toward Arjeh when talking about how difficult it was for him to speak about the tragedy while “the murderer is sitting here in court.”
Arjeh appeared unexpectedly calm before the hearing and when the lawyers were speaking, even cracking jokes with his supporters, but turned red and appeared teary eyed and tense when Palmer spoke about the loss of Asher.
The Palmer family’s lawyer, Adrian Agassi, said that at future hearings the family would seek around NIS 10 million in damages, including impounding the taxi cab which Arjeh used to carry out the attack.
Arjeh and his lawyer remained largely silent, saying they would save their arguments for the Military Court of Appeals.
According to the IDF, Arjeh and an accomplice, Ali Saadeh, intentionally threw a stone from a moving taxi through the front windshield of Asher’s vehicle. The stone broke the windshield, causing Asher to lose control of the car which eventually overturned.
Initially, security forces thought Palmer and his son died in a car accident on Route 60 outside the Kiryat Arba settlement on September 23, 2011. It took days before the Defense Ministry recognized them as terror victims.
According to the court, this was not an incident in which a random small roadside stone was tossed. The object thrown at Asher’s vehicle was large and deadly.
“It was thrown from an oncoming vehicle that was traveling in the opposite direction,” said Agassi, a former IDF military court judge. “At that velocity, it was like shooting a bullet.”
Arjeh was the ringleader of a gang that developed this method of killing Jews, Agassi said. They had tried it many times before, he added. The attorney said the defendant had worked for the Palestinian Authority security forces and as a taxi driver, and knew the roads in the area very well.
Leading up to the sentencing, Palmer also talked about an enduring picture in his mind of “Asher, Asher’s wife, Pua, and their son, Yonatan, sitting together on Shabbat” and of the “tremendous love between father and son.”
He noted that “Yonatan, like his dad, loved to smile, to be happy and he was just starting to talk – that is when Arjeh killed him.”
Next, Palmer mentioned that Pua had named the couple’s still-living child – unborn when her father was killed – Orit, because that was the name Asher had told her he wanted.
He said that Asher and Yonatan’s lives “were taken by people who did not know them, who had never even seen them, for the simple reason that they were Jews.”
Palmer’s testimony was sudden, dramatic and unexpected, since he had previously submitted a written statement in order to avoid having to endure testifying before the court.
However, due to the defense’s procedural objections, the written statement was disputed.
The choice to dispute Palmer’s written statement may possibly have backfired, as it led to Palmer’s spontaneous, moving and chilling testimony.
The IDF prosecution added that – at least until very late in the proceedings – Arjeh had “expressed no regret” and had “tried to cover up his role” in the crime. Additionally, he had “carried out more attacks” after the deaths of Asher and Yonatan.
A verdict has yet to be issued in the case against Saadeh.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.