The State Department is considering supporting the Palestinian Authority in its quest to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in judgments won by American victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel, according to Palestinian officials and defense lawyers involved in the cases.
U.S. officials insist that no decision has been made regarding the complex litigation, which could force the Bush administration to choose between supporting compensation for victims of terrorism and bolstering the Palestinian government as the United States presses for a breakthrough in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Testimony in Israeli courts has connected senior Palestinian leaders -- such as the late Yasser Arafat -- to specific terrorist attacks involved in the lawsuits. But Palestinian officials have argued that it makes no sense for the United States to be providing millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority while U.S. courts are threatening to bankrupt it.
For once, I agree with "Palestinian officials" -- that it makes no sense.
Leslye Knox, a 46-year-old mother of six children and widow of Aharon Ellis, a U.S. citizen who was killed in 2002 while singing at a bar mitzvah in Hadera, Israel, said that she has sued under a law passed by Congress in 1990 after the murder of Leon Klinghoffer by terrorists who seized the Achille Lauro cruise ship. In 2006, a federal judge ordered the PLO and the Palestinian Authority to pay Knox and other Ellis relatives nearly $174 million, but nothing has been paid while Knox has struggled to support her family.
"Now here are the wrongdoers, they come to the government, and say, 'Hey, help us,' " Knox said. "It's hard to see why the government listens to them. It makes me feel like, 'Who is on my side?' "
No offense to Knox, but I think what she means is, "What side is America on?" Either way, it's a good and relevant question and the sooner we get a definitive answer, the better it will be for everyone concerned. Perhaps your senator or congressman knows something we don't know?
According to State Department spokesman Tom Casey, "The Justice Deparment will make the final decision." The deadline for the United States to issue a "statement of interest" comes at the end of this month. We should keep an eye out.
Please read it all, and note the "new set of [American] lawyers" for the Palestinian Authority: Richard A. Hibey and Mark J. Rochon of the Washington firm Miller & Chevalier.
Office: (312) 252-4102
Fax: (312) 252-4110
Cell: (312) 502-1963
On Oct. 13, 2000, official Palestinian Authority TV broadcast a call for killing Jews and Americans:
.... Wherever you are, kill those Jews and those Americans who are like them and those who stand by them; they are all in one trench, against the Arabs and the Muslims because they established Israel here, in the beating heart of the Arab world, in Palestine....
(For full translation go to MEMRI.)
UPDATE from today's news:
PA TV Bunny Rabbit Threatens to 'Eat the Jews'