May 15, 2009.
A United States court ruled Thursday evening that the Palestinian Authority
must compensate the children of Yaron and Efrat Unger, who were murdered in
a terrorist attack in 1996. Former PA Chairman Yasser Arafat bore responsibility
for the slayings, the court determined.
The court ruled that the couple’s children should receive the $116 million that
they were awarded in a previous verdict.
Yaron, 26, and Efrat, 25, were shot and killed by a PA terrorist as they drove
near the city of Beit Shemesh, southwest of Jerusalem and west of Gush
Etzion. Their infant son was in the car but survived the attack.
The couple was survived by their children Dvir and Yishai, who were two years
old and nine months old respectively at the time that their parents were
Yaron held U.S. citizenship, a fact that later allowed his family to seek damages
for the killing. Dvir and Yishai filed suit five years ago under the Anti-Terrorism
Act of 1991, which allows foreign terrorist groups to be sued for the deaths of
The PA appealed, arguing that it was not responsible for the attack, which was
carried out by a member of Hamas, and not of the ruling Fatah terrorist group
led by Arafat. The Ungers argued that Arafat’s PA provided a safe haven for
Hamas and allowed terrorists unfettered license to attack Israeli civilians.
Judge Ronald Lagueux blamed the PA’s loss on Arafat’s policies. “These
choices were the intentional, deliberate and binding decision made by the PA’s
dictatorial leader. Defendants must now accept the consequences of these
decisions,” he wrote in his verdict.
Arafat’s policy of refusing to recognize the U.S. court system’s authority played
a large role in the verdict as well. When the Unger children first filed suit, the
PA refused to give witness depositions or to share evidence with the Ungers’
attorneys as it was required to do, leading to a default verdict in favor of the
PA attorneys later appealed, arguing that they had not understood the U.S.
court system, but that argument was rejected.