The U.S. warned a judge that the Palestinian government could fall, threatening the stability of the Middle East, if it’s forced to put up a large bond while it appeals a New York jury’s $218.5 million award to victims of terrorism.
Lawyers for the victims asked the judge to order the Palestinian Authority to pay $30 million a month as security.
“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 entity,” Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a court filing.
The government’s collapse “would undermine several decades of U.S. foreign policy and add a new destabilizing factor to the region, compromising national security,” Blinken said.
A New York jury in February found the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization liable in six bombing and shooting attacks on Americans in Israel, awarding $218.5 million. Under a U.S. terrorism law, that amount is automatically tripled to $655.5 million.
Blinken didn’t address the verdict in the trial or any of the issues on appeal.
The Palestinian Authority and PLO in May asked U.S. District Judge George Daniels to block collection of the judgment and rule that the defendants don’t have to post a bond while they appeal the verdict.
Citing the government’s “deep economic distress,” they said without an order blocking collection, “the ability of the PA and the PLO to financially support the Palestinian people and to play their vital role in regional security and stability will be irreparably harmed.”
Lawyers for the victims argued that a delay in collection without a bond “would leave plaintiffs with no protection whatsoever.”
The defendants spend more than $60 million a year paying prisoners convicted of terrorist crimes, lawyers for the families claimed in a court filing.
“If the PA and PLO would stop paying convicted terrorists, they would have plenty of money to pay the judgment in this case,” said Kent Yalowitz, a lawyer for the victims.
In the trial, the two organizations were accused of supporting Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, designated as terrorist groups by the U.S. government, by providing money, explosives, training and personnel that were used in six attacks from 2002 to 2004 that killed 33 and wounded more than 450. Jurors delivered a unanimous verdict in favor of 10 families who sued in 2004.
The case is Sokolow v. PLO, 04-cv-00397, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).