The state can't be sued for failure to protect a bus from a firebomb terrorist attack, the High Court of Justice ruled on Thursday morning, accepting an appeal by the state.
An Egged bus driver had won a lawsuit against the state in 2021, over an incident in 1996, when the man drove one of the 250 buses employed to service a massive Passover rally of 15,000 participants and major public figures in support of the Jewish community in Hebron.
While the IDF and security forces claimed to have established foot patrols and heavily secured the road junction where the incident occurred, the applicant's bus was struck by a Molotov cocktail.
The driver sued the Egged bus line and the state after he developed post-traumatic stress disorder from the incident, though he also began to receive disability benefits from the state. The driver argued that Egged took the contract and should have provided special armored buses for the event, given how high tensions were. The state was negligent, argued the driver, because it hadn't provided sufficient security. This included the decision to lift a curfew the morning of the attack, and not diverting traffic or establishing a curfew after the attack.
The claim was filed in 2012 and rejected. An appeal was accepted by a district court against the state, but the case against Egged was rejected. High Court Justice Yizhak Amit noted that at the time Egged was still in the process of fitting buses with protection against rocks and Molotov cocktails.
IDF decision making
Amit said that the tactical and operational decisions made by the IDF are at their discretion, and need to be given a wide berth to do so. He didn't believe that the actions of the security forces amounted to negligence, and one needed to be careful about judgements of ongoing operations from the benefit of hindsight. The event also occurred decades ago, and it wasn't possible to determine proper procedure. The precedent established by the case also had to be considered.
"It is hard to believe that in every terrorist incident that the court will be required to examine allegations of such and other omissions, such as: What was the intelligence material known at that time and about that sector; was the intelligence material distributed to the relevant parties; why was the guard post at the junction not manned; why did you not increase the forces in the sector; why did they not block the junction; why was the military force not skilled; why the force was late in arriving; and more," Amit said.
"Questions of this kind are a matter for military investigation and are at the core of the military profession."
Amit also asserted that civil claims were not suitable for such military situations, and would open the state to unreasonable future liability.
"Civil tort claims are not suitable for a war situation, and that the application of tort laws in these situations may lead to legal distortions and the payment of huge compensations by the state," said Amit.