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Washington — In the nine years that have passed since victims first organized to sue the Arab Bank, much has happened. The intifada died out, Palestinian leadership changed, and while the victims and families still bear the daily pain, Israelis and Americans have moved on. Terrorism in Israel no longer occupies news headlines.
The case itself has also seen setbacks. Recently, a federal court dismissed a separate but similar suit filed by an Israeli injured in Gaza. And a Supreme Court ruling has effectively denied foreign nationals the right to sue non-American entities in the United States. This ruling could significantly downsize the case by excluding all non-American citizens from the suit. The issue will be settled in coming months.
“What I tell our clients is: ‘Continue to have faith in the judicial system. I’m very hopeful that we can begin the trial in the fall and get a verdict this year,” said Michael Elsner, an attorney with the South Carolina-based Motley Rice law firm, one of the practices representing the terror victims. “We’re almost there.”
For the Wultz family, suing the Bank of China, patience may not necessarily pay off. Their hope to summon a former Israeli intelligence official to testify about how he personally warned the Chinese about transferring funds to Hamas has hit a snag: The Netanyahu government has reneged on its initial promise to allow the official to take the stand — reportedly after China threatened to call off a scheduled state visit to Beijing last May by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if he allowed the official to testify.
But Tully and Sheryl Wultz have yet to give up. She is a first cousin of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and the couple has also enlisted Florida Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to call on Netanyahu to allow the testimony. ”If they withdraw support for this case, it would be another tragedy on top of a tragedy,” Sheryl Wultz told The Wall Street Journal on June 21.
Ynet, an English-language Israeli news website, reported on July 15 that Michael Oren, Israel’s outgoing envoy to Washington, held an emergency meeting with Netanyahu the day before in which he conveyed the “shock” of American officials at the Israeli leader’s stand. Netanyahu is known for his adamant counsel in books and speeches over many years against ever giving in to terrorism.
According to the report, Netanyahu now feels torn between American pleas and Chinese pressure and has been told that the court could subpoena Israeli officials to testify if they do not come on their own.
Lawsuits against the Chinese and Jordanian banks are based on the claim that financial support for Hamas enabled it to carry out terror attacks. In Linde v. Arab Bank, at the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn), plaintiffs claim that the Arab Bank was responsible for allowing funds to be transferred to families of terrorists, thus providing the bombers with the peace of mind that their relatives would be taken care of after they carried out the suicide attacks.