Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu stalls on calls to aid Palestinian suicide bombings victims' families as they sue Bank of China

Lawyers want leader to grant permission for former agent to testify

New York

Efforts by families of the victims of Palestinian suicide bombings to sue the Bank of China in the United States for allegedly allowing Hamas and Islamic Jihad – both recognised as terrorist groups in the US  – to channel funding through its branches has created a pointed diplomatic conundrum for the Israeli government as it seeks warmer relations with Beijing.

Lawyers in two cases now before US District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin in New York are pressing Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, to stand by his commitment to fight terrorism by any means by granting permission for a former Israeli counter-terrorism agent to testify.

That Mr Netanyahu may be trying to put the brakes on the case was first reported by the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth last month. It suggested that as part of the preparations for a high-level visit to China last May, the Prime Minister had promised Beijing not to allow any Israeli civil servants, retired or otherwise, to assist in the case.

On a recent trip to Washington, the former counter-terrorism official, Uzi Shaya, was ordered to give a deposition in New York on 25 November. Lawyers for the families and the judge herself have all indicated that his co-operation will prove pivotal. But there is as yet no confirmation that Mr Shaya, who lives in Israel, will attend.

Previous reports hinted at behind-closed-doors efforts by the Israeli government to engineer a settlement in the cases which, if they reach trial, are certain to draw intense media attention, unlikely to be welcomed by either the Netanyahu government or China. 

Representing 22 families suing the Bank of China under US laws that forbid financing of terror networks is Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the Israeli lawyer with a long track record of pursuing Palestinian extremists with court actions.

“Israel has to decide whether they are fighting terrorism and continuing the struggle which they initiated... or collapsing to the pressure of China and abandoning the terror victims,” she told AP this week.Also before Judge Scheindlin is a related case brought by the family of Daniel Wultz, a 16-year-old American citizen killed by a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv in 2006.

His father Yekutiel is seeking damages running to hundreds of millions of dollars. The family is represented by the law firm of David Boies, who represented Al Gore in the contested 2000 US presidential election.

In both cases, the plaintiffs contend that Mr Shaya was among a group of Israeli government officials who allegedly met representatives of the Bank of China in 2005 to warn them that the terror groups were using accounts with the bank to funnel money coming from Iran and Syria to its operatives in the Gaza Strip. They also contend that the Bank of China ignored the warning and did nothing to stop the transactions.

Judge Scheindlin is believed to have written letters to the Israeli government at least twice asking that it give permission to Mr Shaya to testify. At a hearing in July, she signalled that she agreed with the plaintiffs’ lawyers that his co-operation was paramount.

Israel, she said, according to transcripts, has to reach a “make-or-break decision” for the case. “This may be the only person who really has the knowledge as to what transpired at the meeting.”

For his part, Mr Shaya has intimated that his hands are tied. “In light of my moral and national obligation and my commitment to the war on terror, I am inclined to give a deposition,” he wrote in a letter to the victims’ lawyers. “However, thus far, the State of Israel has not yet formulated its final position on the matter.”

Any perception that Mr Netanyahu may be prioritising his well-advertised desire to forge closer ties with Beijing over assisting in the cases would clearly sit badly with the US that has long applauded him for his commitment to fighting terror groups. The Wultz suit will have a particularly high profile, not least because the victim’s mother, Sheryl, is a cousin of US House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Israel’s relations with China cooled significantly at the start of the last decade but is now intensifying, in part because of the influence Beijing has with two of the greatest regional threats to Israeli security: Iran and Syria.

The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Real Madrid
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HE Dyslexia Tutor/Study Skills Tutor P/T

£21 - £22 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: Randstad Education has been help...

Newly Qualified Teachers

£90 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently seeking dy...

IT & Business Studies Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: ICT & Business Studies Teacher f...

IT Support Engineer (1st and 2nd Line) - London

£22000 - £24000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer (1st...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?