In less than a week, Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States. Many here in Israel are hopeful for a more positive relationship with Washington and greater support for Israel in its dealings with the UN and neighboring states. While I know from the pictures of everyone coming into and out of Trump Tower that there does not seem to be a single person in America who does not want something from the incoming president, I will take the liberty of asking for one more thing: please do not talk to Mahmoud Abbas or representatives of the Palestinian Authority (PA) until the latter settles with its American victims of Palestinian terror.
As is well-known, one of Yassir Arafat’s greatest feats was to slice and dice his terrorist force to the point that it was hard to pin anything directly on him or his organization. “Force 17” or “Al-Aksa Brigades” or “Tanzim” or “Fatah” would claim responsibility for some horrific attack on innocent civilians, and those in the press or at home would be hard-pressed to put together a chart to link this group with Arafat or his invention, the Palestinian Authority.
In the early 2000’s, several dozen American families harmed during the Second Intifada took advantage of the post-Klinghoffer Anti-Terrorist Act (ATA) to sue the Palestinian Authority and the PLO in US federal courts. Some cases were settled after the PA and PLO defaulted. Our case, Sokolow v. PLO, resulted in a $655.5 million judgment against defendants in 2015. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the verdict on appeal for “due process” reasons, claiming that one could not sue the unincorporated PA in a US court. While we are appealing to the Supreme Court to reinstate the judgment, why don’t we try to see how involved the PA was in the terror that was the Second Intifada. The Second Circuit made it quite clear in its opinion that the attacks were horrific, and the three judges in no way suggested that the PA or PLO was not guilty of the acts described in the complaint for which twelve New Yorkers found them guilty on 24 counts.
The head of the cell that perpetrated the 21 March 2002 suicide bombing in Jerusalem in which my son and I were injured from shrapnel was a senior officer in the PA intelligence agency. He was captured, confessed, and during his trial, he stated unequivocally that he understood and agreed to all of the material in the indictment against him. In that indictment, Akrim Aweis, the intelligence official, made it clear that he used his position in the PA to have the future bomber released from a Palestinian jail, procure bombing material from the office of the head of the PA intelligence services, and communicate his plans with Palestinian legislator and Arafat confidant, Marwan Barghouti, who gave $600 to the cell the day before the bombing “for their success”. The bomber was a Palestinian Authority policeman whose final pay slip was produced in NY federal court to show that he was on the PA payroll when he blew himself up and killed three and wounded 83 in downtown Jerusalem.
Aweis and his accomplices were found guilty in military court and sentenced to multiple life sentences. The two female escorts of the bomber were released in the Schalit deal. Aweis and his main accomplice, Nassir Shawish, receive PA salaries while sitting in Israeli jail. Aweis has gone up four ranks in his intelligence job and his salary from the PA or PLO has gone up accordingly. Estimates of money spent by the PA and the PLO on terrorists in Israeli jails, including those who killed and maimed American citizens, stand at $140 – $165 million per year.
As the PA was directly involved in attacks that led to the death and injury of dozens of American citizens, the US should demand that Abbas settle all outstanding federal litigation before the PA again turns to Washington for funding or concrete help in moving forward peace negotiations. Donald Trump ran on a platform of America first. We would like Mr. Trump to apply his thinking to the Palestinian Authority and demand that the PA compensate its American victims before it comes hat in hand to Washington again for another handout from the State Department. His approach would be in stark contrast to that of his predecessor who came down on the side of the Palestinian terrorists in our litigation after the PA lost in district court. John Kerry and his henchmen at State could not be bothered with the suffering of their fellow American citizens.
Peace between Israel and the Palestinians will not be made by UN condemnations of Israel or by treating the PA like spoiled children. If Mr. Trump can teach Mahmoud Abbas and his colleagues that the first rule of being a state is taking responsibility, then maybe there is hope that the Palestinians will stop their endless demands and start thinking of what they need to do to set up a successful state. Where is the economy for a new state? Where is the housing for the hundreds of thousands of “refugees” who no doubt will return to Palestine? Where is the responsibility for the terror wave that was so deeply supported by the Palestinian Authority? Because the world has treated the Palestinians with kid gloves, the PA continues to praise stabbing, runover and shooting against civilians to this day.
Mr. Trump, please don’t speak with the Palestinians until they finally take responsibility for attacking American citizens and settle the federal terror litigation against them.