'Netanyahu broke personal promise to let gov't agent testify against Bank of China'

Official in PM's office promised terror victim's family that Netanyahu would let gov't agent testify, family's lawyers tell court.

Netanyahu in China 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu in China 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised a terror victim’s family, through a telephone call from a member of his office, that he would allow former government agent Uzi Shaya to testify against the Bank of China in a major US terror financing case, according to a response filed by the family’s lawyers on Tuesday.
The response, obtained by The Jerusalem Post and filed in a US federal court for the District of Columbia, said Jordana Cutler of the Prime Minister’s Office made the call on April 1, 2012 to the parents of terror victim Daniel Wultz.
Then, on May 14, 2012, then-Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren called US Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) to confirm Shaya would testify, the lawyers said.
This all occurred after Ros-Lehtinen had personally delivered a letter to Netanyahu from the Wultz family in March 2012, according to the response.
The revelation came in the wake of the Israeli government’s highly controversial mid-November motion to block Shaya from testifying in the case, which the government said was due to national security concerns and harm to international cooperative efforts to prevent terrorism.
The government and the prime minister have been accused of blocking Shaya’s testimony due to pressure from China, as Jerusalem is attempting to elevate its relations with Beijing.
The Prime Minister’s Office responded to the revelations on Tuesday by reiterating word for word its mid-November response regarding national security concerns, without addressing the new allegations.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in Israel on Tuesday for a rare high-level visit.
Shaya’s testimony was planned to be a major part of the terror victims families’ case against the bank. He was due to testify about Israeli warnings to China that the bank was being used to fund attacks on civilians in Israel.
In 2006, 16-year-old American Daniel Wultz was killed in a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. His family has accused the Bank of China of facilitating the attack by providing wire transfer services to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which orchestrated the attack.
The bank denies the allegations.
The court response details the personal communications between the Wultz family and senior Israeli government and intelligence officials, including Netanyahu, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, former National Security Council head Ya’acov Amidror and Shaya himself, who the family says encouraged them to pursue the case.
Many of the contacts between Netanyahu’s office, Oren and the Wultzes and their representatives came as Dagan was replaced as head of the Mossad in 2011, with some questions arising under the new leadership, said the court response.
In addition, the filing says the government actively participated in preparing Shaya to be deposed in the case, including by arranging a face-to-face meeting between Daniel Wultz’s father, Yekutiel (“Tuly”) Wultz, and Shaya. It added that the government directed Shaya to “review government files, instructed Shaya to meet with senior government lawyers, and prepared a letter that set the government’s ground rules for Shaya’s testimony.”
The response says the government provided the Wultzes with bank account numbers and details about how money was being laundered for Palestinian terrorists through the bank.
Most importantly, says the response, the government disclosed “the content of discussions between Israeli officials and officials of the People’s Republic of China” that made filing the case possible.
The response makes reference to Shlomo Matalon, who filed an affidavit in the case in 2008, and an agent referred to only as “Mr. L,” as having worked for the Israeli government on the issues related to the case. A “Mr. B” and “E” are referred to as defining the legal parameters by which Shaya would be allowed to testify.
The response, in fuller detail than previously revealed, recounts a June 2013 telephone call between Amidror and Yekutiel Wultz, in which Amidror somewhat apologetically told the father that since the case had changed China’s behavior, the main objective had already been achieved. The filing says Amidror did not deny Netanyahu had reversed his position because of pressure from the Chinese.
On legal arguments, the response contends that the substance of Shaya’s testimony was already revealed by Matalon and that some aspects of Shaya’s testimony were learned after he left government services.
Each of these arguments should vitiate any special sovereign immunity or national security privilege claimed by Israel to block Shaya from testifying, the response said.
David Boies, of Boies, Schiller and Flexner LLP, the Wultz family’s renowned lawyer, said: “Congress has made clear America’s interest in bringing to justice those who facilitate terrorism against American citizens anywhere in the world.”
“While we are respectful of China’s interests,” Boies said, “and of the diplomatic pressure to which Israel has been subjected, those interests and that pressure cannot be permitted to obstruct the ability of American courts to hear critical evidence to which they are entitled.”
In related developments, Shurat Hadin, an NGO representing 22 families of victims in a parallel case, recently demanded the depositions of Amidror and Ambassador to China Matan Vilnai, and is also demanding that Shaya testify.
Shurat Hadin head Nitsana Darshan- Leitner said: “The United States federal courts are not Abu Jihad’s house in Tunis, Israel cannot have its agents charging in there, shooting the place up and then running away. This time the Prime Minister’s Office has got to deal with the mess it created.”