The Obama administration on Monday cited potential economic and political repercussions to the Palestinian Authority when it asked a federal judge to “carefully consider” the amount of bond he will require for the PA to appeal large damages awarded to American victims of terror.
At the conclusion of a lengthy civil trial in February, the PA and Palestine Liberation Organization were found liable in six terrorist attacks that killed and injured Americans. The case was brought under an antiterrorism law with a unique provision that tripled the judgment of $218.5 million to $655.5 million.
Plaintiffs in the case included 11 families affected by terrorist attacks in Israel that killed 33 and wounded more than 450 civilians between 2002 and 2004.
Lawyers for the PA and PLO argued that they cannot afford the judgment and plan to appeal.
Judge George B. Daniels of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York made clear last month, The New York Times reported, that he wanted a bond as a “significant demonstration” that the PA and PLO are “willing and able to pay a judgment, if a judgment is entered and is affirmed on appeal.”
Lawyers for the defendants filed a motion to stay the execution of the judgment and to waive the bond requirement, which they said typically would be 111 percent of the judgment.
The Justice Department, on behalf of the State Department, filed a “Statement of Interest of the United States of America” with Daniels.
According to The New York Times, the case has been a sore spot between the State Department and the Justice Department. The Justice Department said the government should not make it harder for terror victims to collect on judgments, while the State Department argued that keeping the PA viable is part of the United States’ strategy to maintain regional stability.
The differing views were not lost on the victims and their families.
“We’re gratified that the Department of Justice supports the rights of survivors of international terrorism to enforce their rights and collect a judgment; however, we’re 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,” said Kent Yalowitz, who led the trial team for the plaintiffs. “If the PA has enough to pay terrorists, they have enough to pay the judgment in this case.”
Sokolow v. PLO was brought under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which enables American victims of international terror to sue in the United States. Throughout the seven-month civil trial, family members offered up emotional testimony and showed evidence that the PA employed terrorists and made payments to the families of suicide bombers convicted and imprisoned inside Israel.
Attached to the government’s filing was a declaration by Antony J. Blinken, deputy secretary of state, which outlined the administration’s concerns with the bond amount. The United States, Blinken noted, provides Palestinian institutions with billions of dollars.
“An event that deprives the PA of a significant portion of its revenues would likely severely compromise the PA’s ability to operate as a governmental authority,” Blinken wrote.
Insolvency and collapse of the PA would harm prospects for a two-state solution. He further contended that a collapse would break down security coordination between the PA and Israel and that ensuing insecurity and instability would creep into Jordan and Egypt.
Blinken underscored the humanitarian situation in Palestinian territory.
“The PA is in the midst of a deteriorating economic and political environment, generating a slow-onset humanitarian crisis in the West Bank that threatens to unravel the economic, security, and humanitarian gains of the past ten years,” wrote Blinken. “In Gaza, where the situation is far more dire, a worsening economic situation could be exploited by Hamas to create an atmosphere for violent conflict.”
Blinken’s statement also said that “the United States strongly supports” victims’ ability to receive “just compensation” from sponsors of terrorism and terrorist organizations. The government, he wrote, was not taking a position on the merits of the case.