Israel Blocks Intelligence Officer From Testifying in Terror Case

YERUSHALAYIM (AP) -

The Israeli government prohibited a former security official from testifying in a landmark anti-terrorism case in the United States, court documents showed over the weekend, drawing accusations from victims of Palestinian violence that the country was caving in to political pressure from China.

In a petition to an American federal court, the government sought to quash the deposition subpoena issued to the witness, who could have tipped the scales in a case filed by families of victims of suicide bombers who accuse the Bank of China of facilitating terrorist funding via branches in the United States.

In the motion, obtained by The Associated Press, Israel said that by providing knowledge he has of specific Israeli counterterrorism information, the witness could divulge state secrets that would endanger Israel’s national security.

But critics say Israel’s actions are motivated by other considerations, namely that the testimony could jeopardize valuable trade ties with China.

“This motion asserts that Israel will forgive the supporters and perpetrators of acts of terror against Israelis and Jews. This is unacceptable,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, a lawyer representing 22 families of people who were killed in Palestinian suicide bombings.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu, by turning his back on the victims of terror, is not only denying justice to those who have paid the ultimate price, but he is sending a message to the terrorists and the whole world that Jewish blood is cheap.”

The families accuse the government-owned Bank of China, through its U.S. branches, of serving as a key conduit in transfers of money to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The family of Daniel Wultz, a 16-year-old American who was killed in a 2006 suicide bombing in Tel Aviv carried out by Islamic Jihad, is pursuing a separate but related case against the bank. Adding to the high profile of the case, Wultz’s mother, Sheryl, is a cousin of U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Naftali Moses, whose son Avraham was murdered in a Yerushalayim library in 2008, lashed out at the prime minister.

“Netanyahu’s office promised to fight terror — and they are backing down,” he said. “Netanyahu’s office promised to aid us in our court case — and they have forgotten the victims of terror in favor of relations with the Chinese.”

The families are seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages in U.S. courts. With claims based in part on U.S. anti-terrorism laws, a verdict against the bank could also potentially affect its ability to do business in the United States.