In a precedent-setting decision, an Israeli military court has ordered a West Bank Palestinian to pay 3.5 million shekels ($897,000) in compensation for the murder of an Israeli man and his infant son. The penalty, which was meted out on top of two life sentences, significantly exceeds the amount allowed by Israeli law.
The incident occurred on September 23, 2011, an emotionally-charged day on which both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud addressed the United Nations General Assembly and discussed the Palestinian bid for UN membership. Asher Palmer, 25, and his son, Yonatan, were travelling to Jerusalem when a rock was thrown at their car from a passing cab. The rock hit Yonatan in the face and caused his father to lose control of the car, which flipped over a number of times. Both died at the scene.
A year ago, Ali Saada was convicted in the case as a member of a cell that had engaged in throwing rocks at Israeli vehicles, and continued to do so after they saw that it could be lethal. On Thursday Saada was sentenced to two life sentences for the murder of Palmer and his son, as well as 50 years for a series of attempted murders and weapon offenses. In a precedent-setting step that the court took at the request of the Palmer family, the Ofer military court also ordered Saada to pay the 3.5 million shekels in compensation.
Israeli law limits compensation that can be ordered under such circumstances to 258,000 shekels, but since the incident occurred in the West Bank, which is outside sovereign Israeli territory, no such limitation applied in Saada's case. Saada's lawyer vowed to appeal the penalty, claiming that the court in no way addressed his argument that Saada's confession in the case had been secured by threat.