After Urging Caution, Admin. Says It Respects Court Ruling Awarding Damages to US Victims of Palestinian Terror

By Patrick Goodenough | August 26, 2015 | 5:21am EDT
Members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization that is also the armed wing of Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas’ faction of the PLO. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari, File)

( – The State Department said Tuesday the administration will respect a judge’s ruling requiring the Palestine Liberation Organization and Palestinian Authority to post $10 million in bond or cash pending their appeals of a verdict awarding hundreds of millions of dollars to families of U.S. victims of Palestinian terrorism.

Earlier the department had urged the New York court to weigh the impact of its decision on the “continued viability” of the P.A., the self-rule administration headed by Mahmoud Abbas.

“An event that deprives the P.A. of a significant portion of its revenues would likely severely compromise the P.A.’s ability to operate as a governmental authority,” Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken argued in a court filing earlier this month. “[T]he collapse of the P.A. would undermine several decades of U.S. foreign policy and add a new destabilizing factor to the region, compromising national security.”

Blinken also wrote that the U.S. “strongly supports the rights of victims of terrorism to vindicate their interests in federal court and to receive just compensation for their injuries.”

In a trial that has dragged on for a decade, a federal jury in New York last February found the PLO and P.A. liable for supporting a spate of terror attacks in Israel in the early 2000s whose victims included Americans. It ordered the two groups to pay $218.5 million to ten American families affected by the attacks.

In line with U.S. law relating to U.S. nationals affected by acts of international terrorism, the awarded damages were automatically increased threefold, making the PLO and P.A. liable for a total of $655.5 million.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge George Daniels said the P.A. and PLO must post the $10 million, and further deposit $1 million each month, pending their appeal against the landmark verdict.

State Department spokesman John Kirby on Tuesday declined to comment on the decision but said the administration would “of course” respect it.

“We offered our views, including our interest both in supporting the rights of victims of terrorism to vindicate their interests in a federal court and to receive just compensation for their injuries, and avoiding the harms that could arise if the Palestinian Authority’s ability to operate as a governmental authority is severely compromised,” he said.

Asked whether the administration felt the judge had taken its concerns into account, Kirby replied, “We don’t know what factors the court used in making their decision. So I wouldn’t want to characterize why they came down where they came down.”

The attacks in question included a 2004 suicide bombing on a public bus in Jerusalem in which 11 people, including one American citizen, were killed; and a 2002 bombing at a Jerusalem university cafeteria, which cost the lives of nine people, including five Americans.

The various attacks were attributed to two U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations – Hamas and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.

The latter group is the military wing of Fatah, the PLO faction headed by P.A. chairman Abbas.

Some of the terrorist perpetrators or planners were on the P.A. payroll, the plaintiffs maintained.

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