The Obama administration has intervened in a lawsuit over Palestinian terror attacks that have killed Americans, advising a judge that requiring a hefty bond payment in the case could financially destabilize the Palestinian government.
The filing comes in a case in New York City, where a jury this year awarded $218.5m to Americans affected by the attacks in a lawsuit brought against the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority. That amount is automatically tripled under the Anti-Terrorism Act, lawyers have said.
By intervening, the government said it was trying to strike a balance between its support for the rights of terrorism victims to be compensated in court and concerns that a large bond imposed while the verdict is on appeal would weaken the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority and undermine “several decades of US foreign policy”.
“Senior US officials have made clear to other governments that if the PA were to collapse, we would be faced with a crisis that would not only impact the security of Israelis and Palestinians, but would potentially have ripple effects elsewhere in the region,” Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a five-page sworn declaration filed Monday in US district court in Manhattan.
He said the loss of the Palestinian Authority’s governing powers would likely “fuel anger and frustration” and could lead to widespread violence in the West Bank.
The Justice Department filed a formal “statement of interest” in the case at the behest of the State Department, federal officials have said.
The plaintiffs have requested that the Palestinian government deposit $30m per month while the case is on appeal. Lawyers for the Palestinian Authority have argued that the group is effectively insolvent and have asked the judge, George Daniels, to waive the bond requirement. But lawyers for the victims say the there is money to make the payments.
“We are gratified that the Department of Justice supports the rights of survivors of international terrorism to enforce their rights and collect the judgment but disappointed that the State Department failed to take any stand against the PLO and PA’s policy of putting convicted terrorists on their payroll as soon as they are jailed,” Kent Yalowitz, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “If the PA has enough money to pay convicted terrorists, it has enough to pay the judgment in this case.”
The case was brought by a group of American families who endured the attacks and concerns a series of bombings and shootings in Israel between 2002 and 2004. Jurors heard dramatic testimony from relatives of people killed and survivors who never fully recovered.
The plaintiffs also relied on internal records showing that the Palestinian Authority continued to pay the salaries of employees who were put behind bars in terrorism cases and paid benefits to families of suicide bombers and gunmen who died in the attacks. But a defense lawyer argued that there was no evidence the Palestinian authorities had approved the attacks, as alleged in the lawsuit.