AMMAN: Israel was accused of “piracy” on Friday after the Jerusalem District Court ruled in favor of an Israeli nonprofit organization that demanded huge compensation for Israelis injured or killed by Palestinians.
The NGO, Shurat Hadin, demanded 1.7 billion shekels ($500 million) in compensation from the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The court lowered the amount to 450 million shekels and demanded that the Israeli government deduct this amount from the taxes it collects on behalf of the PA.
Hussein Sheikh, minister of civil affairs and the most senior Palestinian in charge of coordination with Israel, called the Israeli action “piracy and theft.”
Sheikh said in a tweet that the Israeli decision “brings us closer to decisiveness and the implementation of the decisions of the Palestinian National and Central Councils.”
Sheikh was referring to previous resolutions — currently on hold — of the National Council and the Central Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on halting security coordination with the Israeli regime and suspending the agreements signed with Israel.
Jonathan Kuttab, an international lawyer and former legal advisor to the PA’s negotiating team, told Arab News that the case against it was a purely political case under the veneer of the legal system.
“If Israeli victims can get compensation from the Palestinian government for attacks against them by civilian Palestinians, most of whom are either killed or in jail, then how much more would the state of Israel have to pay for Palestinian victims injured and killed by (Israeli) soldiers?” he said.
Sources in Jerusalem and Ramallah told Arab News that they believed the case would take at least a year before its decisions were fully enforceable because of potential appeals.
Ofer Zalzberg, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, told Arab News that despite Palestinian claims, at this stage the Israeli government was not directly involved.
“This is so far a legal and not a political case. The case was brought against the PA by Shurat Hadin, a registered Israeli not for profit organization. However, when it comes to implementing the decision, the government would be able to waive or postpone the payment.”
Zalzberg said that Palestinian officials were hoping that once Benny Gantz became defense minister, he would ensure that a way was found to circumvent such decisions.
“Gantz will look at this case not only from the perspective of deterring the PA from supporting future attacks, but also from the perspective of preserving, rather than weakening, the PA.”
Brian Reeves, spokesman for Peace Now, told Arab News: “Any pressure on the PA should be taken in the context of the overall security benefit it affords Israel through its security coordination and terror prevention with Israel.”
He said right-wing Israeli pressure groups who try to economically “undermine the PA do so against Israel's larger strategic interests.”
In addition to this case, the Israeli and Palestinian governments have been at loggerheads since July 2018, when the Knesset passed a law demanding that the Israeli government deduct from the money it collects on behalf of the PA equal to that which Palestinians spend supporting prisoners and families of martyrs.
The coronavirus and its economic implications have further deteriorated the PA’s position, leading analysts to be warn that it might not to be able to withstand further economic punishment from Israel.
Ziad Abu Zayyad, former minister of justice in the Palestinian government, told Arab News that Israel has no jurisdiction over the state of Palestine.
"While this is not the first time, I don't believe that the state of Israel will enforce this court decision. This theft and piracy reflect the real nature of the state of Israel."