On Tuesday, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that 1,132 Israeli victims of terrorism could not pursue a lawsuit against Arab Bank for wrongful death based on allegations that the bank had financed terrorism.
The families of those killed in terrorist attacks in Israel filed a lawsuit against the largest bank in Jordan, seeking about NIS 30 billion, in December 2019.
In the United States judicial system, Arab Bank has been involved in a number of other legal sagas prior to this lawsuit.
Separate litigation initiated in 2004 in the United States resulted in a landmark ruling in 2014 and a subsequent $1 bn settlement with the bank. All of the victims were American-Israeli nationals.
It was in April 2018 that the US Supreme Court ruled against a second case brought by 6,000 victims, including 1,132 Israeli victims who filed in Israel in 2019.
On Tuesday, the Jerusalem District Court essentially invoked the doctrine that plaintiffs cannot refile a case in another jurisdiction in an attempt to get a “second bite at the apple” after a court, even a foreign court, has ruled on an issue.
The Jerusalem District Court argued that even though the plaintiffs had attempted to rely on Israeli law in the US courts, their claim had been rejected because of the difference in law.
The court added that even if the claim hadn’t been rejected by US courts, there could be issues with the claims’ statute of limitations.
The Workings of Arab Bank
The plaintiffs’ statement in response to the ruling read: “It is incomprehensible that such a judgment could be handed down in Israel. To put it bluntly, the decision awards a prize to an organization that “financed terrorism and helped terrorists and terrorist groups in harming and murdering many Israelis.”
They declared their intention to challenge the ruling in the highest court possible.
About 600 of Arab Bank’s branches can be found in different countries. Since it is owned by the government of Jordan, it is essentially the country’s central bank.
It is unclear what assets Israeli courts might have been able to reach had the case gone forward, unlike the US lawsuit which caused significant business issues for Arab Bank due to the large assets the US could reach.
Since relations between the United States and Jordan are so good, even the resolution of the US case was postponed for a long period of time. Israel’s government, which also has a fraught relationship with Jordan, may have taken an undefined position if the case had gone forward.
The lawsuit claimed that from 1995-2005, the bank actively supported Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Fatah, and other Palestinian terrorist organizations by providing them with funding and logistics for attacks against Israel.
The lawsuit names several attacks, including the 1995 suicide bombing at Beit Lid junction, which killed 22 Israelis, as well as a series of suicide attacks against buses that killed dozens more, the 1996 suicide attack outside Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv, which killed 13, and the 2002 Passover night bombing of the Park Hotel in Netanya, which killed 30 people.
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