US President Barack Obama. (AP/Carolyn Kaster) (AP/Carolyn Kaster)
Obama

The Obama administration will come to the aid of the Palestinian Authority against the interests of American victims of terror who successfully sued the PA for damages.

US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken

US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken. (AP/Khin Maung Win)

A jury in New York City earlier this year awarded $218.5 million to American victims of Palestinian terror  in a lawsuit against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA). That amount is automatically tripled under the Anti-Terrorism Act to as much as $1.1 billion, legal experts say

The Obama administration intervened on behalf of the terrorists, advising a judge that requiring a hefty bond payment in the case could financially destabilize the PA.

The US government explained that it was trying to strike a balance between its support for the right of terror 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 PA 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 at US District Court in Manhattan.

He said the loss of the PA’s governing powers would likely “fuel anger and frustration” and could lead to widespread violence in Judea and Samaria.

Kent Yalowitz

Attorney Kent Yalowitz. (AP/Craig Ruttle)

The Justice Department filed a formal “statement of interest” in the case at the behest of the State Department, federal officials have said.

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. Gassan Baloul, a lawyer for the Palestinians, said Tuesday that the defendants were studying the government’s filing and would respond at a hearing later this month.

But the plaintiffs have requested that the Palestinian government deposit $30 million per month while the case is on appeal, an amount that they say is fair and reasonable. Lawyers for the victims, represented by Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center and Kent Yalowitz of Arnold & Porter LLP in Washington, DC, have repeatedly said that the PA has sufficient 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,” Yalowitz said in a statement. “If the PA has enough money to pay convicted terrorists, it has enough to pay the judgment in this case.”

Terror attack at Hebrew University's Mt. Scopus campus in 2002.

A student at Hebrew University’s Mt. Scopus campus in 2002 suffers trauma after Palestinian terror attack. (AP)

The case was brought by a group of American families who were victims of 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 federal jury in February found the PLO and PA liable over six shootings and bombings between 2002 and 2004 in the Jerusalem area that killed 33 and injured hundreds, which have been attributed to the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Hamas.

In two cases, the attackers were PA police officers; in another, a suicide bomber was shown to have worked closely with the PA’s military intelligence office in planning the attack; and in a 2004 suicide bombing of a bus, in which 11 were killed and 50 wounded, PA police and security officials admitted to participating in the plot and making the bomb.

The plaintiffs also relied on internal records showing that the PA continued to pay the salaries of employees who were put behind bars for committing acts of terror and paid benefits to families of terrorists who died in the attacks. A defense lawyer argued that there was no evidence that Palestinian authorities had approved the attacks, as alleged in the lawsuit.

By: AP and United with Israel Staff

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