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Experts to Testify in Suit against PA despite Mazuz's Defiance

Several of Israel's top intelligence officials will testify in a suit against the PA brought by the owners of the Caffit restaurant in Jerusalem.
By David Lev
First Publish: 11/22/2009, 11:01 PM / Last Update: 11/23/2009, 7:19 AM


According to Mazuz, the three did not qualify as material witnesses in the case, but merely as expert witnesses – and there was no need to trouble them to testify.
Several of Israel's top intelligence officials – former Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) Director Avi Dichter, former advisor to the Defense and Foreign Ministers and former Health Minister Danny Naveh, and former head of IDF Intelligence Aharon Farkash, will testify in a lawsuit against the Palestinian Authority, brought by the owners of the Caffit restaurant in Jerusalem over an aborted terror attack against the establishment in 2002. The decision to allow them to testify was made Sunday by Jerusalem District Civil Court Judge Yoel Tsur, who overrode a refusal by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz banning them from testifying.

In 2002, an Arab terrorist who was planning to blow up the Caffit cafe was stopped by an attentive waiter when he tried to sit down with a bomb. The waiter tackled the terrorist, pushing him outside the cafe and alerting security officers in Jerusalem's German Colony. The officers shot and killed the terrorist.

It emerged later that the attack had been planned by top PA terrorist Nidal Mashaal, a close aide of former PA chief Yasser Arafat. As a result, the cafe's owners decided to sue the PA for damages in the attempted attack.

Among the witnesses the owners asked to testify were Dichter, Naveh, and Farkash, all of whom have intimate knowledge on the structure of the PA and the relationships between terrorists. However, when they served notice on the three that they were expected to testify, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz stepped in – and banned the three from testifying in the case.

According to Mazuz, the three did not qualify as material witnesses in the case, but merely as expert witnesses – and in a "small potatoes" case of a civil lawsuit such as the one the Caffit owners were bringing, there was no need to trouble the the witnesses to testify.

As government officials with a high degree of knowledge on special security issues, the three needed the Attorney-General's approval before testifying. "They do not qualify as 'witnesses' in terms of providing evidence," Mazuz wrote in his decision. Mazuz added, "The plaintiffs do not need the witnesses to supply expert opinions, since they can hire, for pay, witnesses who are experts on the Middle East and terror organizations. It is unreasonable and unjustified to expect senior officials such as these to provide expert testimony in a civil case," Mazuz wrote.

Judge Tsur disagreed, however, accepting the arguments of the cafe owners, who said that the witnesses were experts on the failure of Israel to fulfill its end of the Oslo agreements, which they said was directly responsible for the radicalization of terror organizations such as Fatah.

Judge Tsur dismissed Mazuz's position, that the three were not needed for a "mere" civil case. "This is not just a mere civil case, but a damages case on a involving a terror attack. The plaintiffs attribute responsibility for the damages not only to the terrorist, but to the Palestinian Authority. The witnesses were in a position to be familiar with details, certainly to the extent that they can be considered proper witnesses in a case of this type," Tsur wrote in his decision.