Warning of dire consequences if the Palestinian Authority were to collapse, the Obama administration has intervened in a massive terrorism case, where the PA faces hundreds of millions of dollars in judgments.
The Palestinian Authority and the PLO were found liable for attacks on U.S. citizens in a verdict in New York earlier this year, and face a judgment of $655 million.
As the case moves forward on appeal, the judge is weighing a bond to be levied on the Palestinian defendants which could run in the hundreds of millions of dollars. But the United States government has filed a so-called “statement of interest” in the case, warning that a financial collapse of the PA could compromise security and ongoing peace efforts in the region.
“The collapse of the PA would compromise several decades of U.S. foreign policy,” wrote Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “The vacuum in governance and security could be filled by violent Palestinian groups that seek Israel’s destruction, and reject the goal of a two-state solution.”
The document states that the U.S. Government “strongly support U.S. victims’ efforts to seek and receive just compensation from the terrorists and sponsors of terrorism responsible for attacks that kill and injure Americans abroad.” But one of the victims who brought that case, 32 year old Shayna Gould, questions what message the overall statement sends to the rest of the world about the government’s commitment to its citizens who have become victims.
“If you teach a child that pushing works, they’re going to just keep pushing,” she said. “And I don’t think that should be our position, as the United States of America.”
Gould was a 19 year old college student from Chicago when she was gunned down on Jaffa street in Jerusalem in January of 2002. Clinically dead when she arrived in the emergency room of Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital, she miraculously survived. And was in court when the massive judgment against the Palestinian Authority was rendered last February.
“We had a long fight and we actually won it,” she said.
But the family’s attorney, Kent Yalowitz, questioned the government’s stance, in the light of the controversial practice which the plaintiffs argued in court, of Palestinian Authority payments to terrorists imprisoned in Israeli jails.
“We are gratified that the Department of Justice supports the rights of survivors of international terrorism to enforce their rights,” he said, “but 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. If the PA has enough money to pay convicted terrorists, it has enough to pay the judgment in this case.”
Gould echoed those sentiments.
“If my shooter hadn’t been killed, he’d be sitting in jail, being paid,” she said. “The person who helped him plan the attack is still being paid.”
Her father Ron Gould suggested the government sends a mixed message, promising support for U.S. families while warning the court about the consequences of a PA collapse.
“They lost in federal court,” he said. “And there is a judgment they need to pay if they lose the appeal.”
On its face, the Obama administration statement plants a flag firmly in favor of the PA’s position that their finances are so precarious that a significant appeal bond cannot be paid. But Gassan Baloul, the lead attorney for the defendants, took no position.
“We are continuing to study the U.S. government’s Statement of Interest,” Baloul told NBC5 Investigates. “We will address those issues with the Court at the August 24 hearing.”
In the meantime, the Goulds and other plaintiffs say they are hopeful that a significant bond will still be required.
“The Anti-Terrorism Act was enacted for a reason, and we used the act as it was supposed to be used,” said Jessica Rine, Gould’s sister. “We won the case. And being a civil case, they (the government) didn’t need to get involved.”