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J'lem Court Upholds U.S. Judgment Against PA

A Jerusalem court on Monday upheld the enforceability of a U.S. judgment ordering the PA to pay $116 million to the family of two terror victims.
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 9/1/2008, 10:03 PM

photo: file

A Jerusalem District Court on Monday evening upheld the enforceability of a United States Federal Court judgment ordering the Palestinian Authority to pay US $116 million in damages to the family of two American victims of PA-backed terrorism.
The PA, however, claimed that paying the sum awarded would lead to additional lawsuits against it.

On June 9, 1996, a Hamas terror cell ambushed, shot and killed Yaron and Efrat Ungar as they drove with their baby son, Yishai, on a road adjacent to Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem. The cell members were identified and two years later an Israeli court convicted three Hamas terrorists of the shooting murders of the Ungars.

The Ungar and Dassberg families, as executors of the estate and guardians of Yaron and Efrat's children, filed a suit in a U.S. court in 2000 under federal counter-terrorism laws and named as defendants, in addition to the PA, the PLO and Yasser Arafat, as well as senior Fatah commanders Jibril Rajoub, Mohamed Dahlan, Amin al-Hindi, Tawfik Tirawi and Razi Jabali. Also named were Hamas and several terrorists belonging to the cell that carried out the attack. In July of 2004 the U.S. Federal Court held the principal defendants responsible for the attack on the Ungars, who were American citizens, and ordered the PA to pay the estate 116 million dollars in compensation.

The terror victims' families brought the U.S. verdict before an Israeli court for enforcement. The PA, however, claimed that paying the sum awarded would lead to additional lawsuits against it and to the ultimate financial collapse of the PA. Therefore, the Fatah-run government argued, the order to pay the financial compensation to the Ungars should be deemed unenforceable. The PA lawyers also warned that there would be security and policy consequences for Israeli citizens if the decision is enforced.

On Monday, Jerusalem District Court Judge Aharon Farkash dismissed the PA's arguments and ruled that the American decision was indeed enforceable. In 2004, a Tel Aviv court ordered 40 million NIS seized in an IDF raid on Ramallah banks to be held until the enforcement of the Ungar decision was ordered by an Israeli court. Judge Farkash renewed the lien on those and other PA funds held by Israel.

In the U.S., the PA and the PLO were represented by the law firm of former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. Initially, they argued sovereign immunity, but the court rejected the claim, saying the PA is not a state. In August 2005 PA assets in the U.S. were frozen pending a U.S. Supreme Court appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court recently declared the federal court judgment "final and enforceable."

Among other sources of funding, the PA has received billions of dollars from donor nations in the last decade. The final destination of most of that money has never been sufficiently identified.