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High Court Judges: Law Doesn't Govern Money Transfers to Gaza

A three-judge panel is about to rule that the government need not follow the anti-terror-funding law in its transfer of money to Hamas-ruled Gaza.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 3/3/2009, 12:53 PM

A three-judge panel, headed by Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch, is about to rule that the government need not follow the anti-terror-funding law in its transfer of money to Hamas-ruled Gaza.

This was the “tone” of the judges’ remarks at the Monday session, said Land of Israel Legal Forum spokesman Shmulik Klein.  The Forum had filed suit against last month’s government transfer of NIS 175 million (close to $45 million) in cash to Gaza. 

The suit came too late for last month's transfer, but Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubenstein, who heard the case, decided at the time that a more thorough session would be held in the near future. This, in order to ensure that the issue be properly adjudicated well before the next scheduled transfer.

Salaries - to Who?
Hamas claims the money transferred by Israel is used to “pay salaries.” The Legal Forum says that among those who receive their salaries in this manner are none other than leading Hamas terrorist officials Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud A-Zahar.

The government claims that the Supreme Court should not intervene in defense-diplomatic issues such as the transfer of the money.

Two of the three justices – Beinisch and Ayala Procaccia – stated that the government need not follow the anti-terror-funding law when it transfers money to Gaza, because the money in question is not Israel’s.  It is rather tax money that belongs to the Palestinian Authority, collected by Israel on its behalf. 

Forum: No Conduit for Terror Money
The Legal Forum claims that the ownership of the money is not relevant, and that Israel must never transfer money to a terrorist entity until it follows the law in such matters. "Would the State transfer guns to Gaza from a third party?" Klein asked rhetorically. 

The Forum says the government must accordingly follow certain procedural matters in making the decision to transfer the money, such as receiving the approval of specified government ministers and ensuring that the money will not end up in terrorist hands. 

The third justice, Eliezer Rivlin, did not state his opinion on the matter.  It thus appears, Klein said, that the Court will rule that government is not bound by the law against funding terrorism in this case. 

Future Plans
Asked whether the Forum would continue to appeal against further transfers, Klein said, “It depends on the exact nature of the impending ruling. One of the justices appeared to agree that some sort of procedure must be followed when making these decisions to transfer, and that they cannot be done abruptly without any form of supervision - such as occurred recently, when Prime Minister Olmert overruled both Defense Minister Barak and Foreign Minister Livni in approving a transfer of funds. If this requirement is reflected in the final ruling, there will be room for us to check whether the procedure is being followed.”

Attorney Yitzchak Bam, representing the Forum, said after the Monday session, “Most unfortunately, the State of Israel allows itself to transfer money to Gaza – money that serves the purpose of terrorism and the firing of Katyusha rockets at our cities.”