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Why Does the Administration Refuse to Provide Guidance in Fatah Terror Case?

POLITICO's Josh Gerstein (via Laura Rozen at the same location) alerts us to the fact that U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler has publicly criticized the Obama administration for refusing to take a position in a lawsuit brought against the Palestinian Authority in connection with a terrorist attack in 2000 that claimed the life of a 25-year-old American, Esh Gilmore. Gilmore's family claims the PLO's Tanzim branch was responsible for his death in the shooting outside an Israeli government office in Jerusalem. Judge Kessler called the administration "particularly unhelpful" and the State Department "mealy-mouthed" in refusing to provide official guidance on the foreign policy issues involved.

Kessler was attempting to decide whether the Palestinian Authority should be granted a new trial or forced to pay a default judgment that rendered against it following its decision not to defend itself against the Gilmore lawsuit.

"The Executive Branch of the United States has been particularly unhelpful in resolving this difficult Motion," Kessler wrote. "The Court requested that the State Department file a Statement of Interest in order to understand the international ramifications of any order it might enter, and to be apprised of our Government's position about such ramifications. In this case, as in Knox v. The Palestinian Liberation Organization. ... the State Department declined to do so. Instead it filed the identical mealy-mouthed Notice there as it did in this case. That Notice, for all practical purposes, said nothing and certainly provided no substantive guidance whatsoever to the Court regarding the Government's position or concerns about any impact a decision might have on the delicate situation in the Middle East."

Is the administration prepared to say that the Palestinian Authority, but not other governments, is immune from liability for killing Americans abroad? That's one interpretation of the State Department's warning to Judge Kessler not to adversely affect the PA's finances. Since when do finances have anything to do with tort liability?



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.