Shurat Hadin (Israeli Law Center) petitioned the Supreme Court on Tuesday against Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, trying to force her to hand over key testimony requested by a US court for half a year, in the case of state-owned Bank of China's (BOC) terror funding.
A rapidly strengthening alliance with China, highlighted in a recent visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, is seen as causing Israel's hesitation to "embarrass" its new ally by exposing the money laundering that funded terror attacks in Israel.
The US court requested the testimony which is held in Israel's control under the Hague Convention, but Livni's Justice Ministry has refused to answer the request for half a year. The petition asks the Supreme Court to compel Livni to comply with the Convention.
Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, head of Shurat Hadin, said "the state of Israel has sacrificed the terror victims on the Chinese altar, and now it is ready to sacrifice its relations with the American judicial system on the same altar."
"Maybe this lawsuit isn't particularly comfortable for the state of Israel at the present time, but it can't ignore the official requests of a federal court in the United States," declared Darshan-Leitner. "The US court turned to the Justice Ministry in the Convention framework to help back evidence, in a mutual Convention signed between the countries."
Israel's refusal to help in the case it initially helped supply facts for has been criticized as "sabotage," as the state petitioned last November 15 to cancel a subpoena on key witness Uzi Shaya. Shaya's testimony is among the requested documents.
Shurat Hadin has been managing the case against BOC for laundering millions of dollars to terror organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The Israeli victims represented in the case were killed in terror attacks by those groups between 2006 and 2007, in Sderot, Shaar Hanegev, Eilat, Tel Aviv, and in the Mercaz Harav Kook Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
The petition argues that the evidence Israel has been asked to provide is essential in allowing the US court to reach a judgement in the case.
Over the half year since the request was made, not one of the requested documents have been sent to the court or those involved, adds the petition, noting Livni refuses to deal with the request.
"By refusing to deal with the request Livni critically harms the relations between the two countries," added Darshan-Leitner. "This is short-range vision, because Israel will need American help in similar requests."
"It is surprising that Livni has become obedient to (Prime Minister Binyamin) Netanyahu's words, and has started preferring relations with China over relations with the US," concluded the attorney.