Israel Won't Sue Palestinian Teen Abu Khdeir's Killers Because They're Broke

State Prosecutor's Office drops plan to file monetary claim against Jewish killer of Mohammed Abu Khdeir after finding that they have no real assets

Yosef Chaim Ben-David, convicted of killing Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old East Jerusalem Palestinian, at court in 2018.
Olivier Fitoussi

The State Prosecutor's Office has abandoned its plan to file a monetary claim against the Jewish killers of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the 16-year-old East Jerusalem Palestinian who was kidnapped and killed in 2014. The state initially planned to sue the three to reimburse the state for compensation that it paid the Abu Khdeir family as victims of terrorism, but it has now abandoned the idea after learning that three killers have no real assets.

By contrast, however, in 2017 the prosecution went ahead with lawsuits against families of two Palestinian terrorists for about 10 million shekels ($2.8 million), although the families didn’t have major assets. In those cases, the terrorists were killed in the course of their attacks, but the state decided to pursue the claims against their legal heirs. One of the two Palestinian attackers was found to own the truck that he used in a ramming attack in Jerusalem. The prosecutor’s office issued a statement for this story saying that its decision to pursue civil suits against the families of terrorists is down without regard to their race, religion or gender.

>> Revealed: How Israel first thought to deal with 'Jewish terror'

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Mohammed Abu Khudair, 16, is seen in this undated family handout picture released July 6, 2014. Israel has arrested suspects in the death of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khudair, Israeli media reported on Sunday, and a security source indicated that Jewish assailants were responsible for the abduction and killing.  REUTERS/Handout via Reuters (Tags: CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY POLITICS) 
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The proposed suit against the Jewish killers of Abu Khdeir originated with the Jerusalem Prosecutor’s Office. After the three defendants lost their appeal to the Supreme Court in February, the Jerusalem district prosecutor’s office submitted a draft of a lawsuit to State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, who in turn asked that it first be determined that the killers had assets so that if a monetary judgment was obtained against them in court, it was clear that the money could be collected rather than engaging in fruitless legal proceedings.

However, prosecutors who saw Nitzan’s emailed reply on the matter said that even earlier, he had raised the question of whether the killers of Abu Khdeir should be sued at all. He even asked to hold a meeting on the subject, which did not take place, the sources said.

Some of the people involved in the issue interpreted Nitzan’s email as putting a halt to the entire effort to obtain compensation from the killers, Yosef Chaim Ben-David and two juveniles, whose identities cannot be disclosed. Sources at the Jerusalem district prosecutor’s office expressed concern that Nitzan had wanted to hold a meeting on the matter even before knowing anything about the killers’ financial situation.

Later prosecutors asked the National Insurance Institute to investigate the economic circumstances of the killers to determine if any of them owned property or had financial assets. According to the prosecutors, they were found to have no assets that could be seized to satisfy any monetary judgment that the state might obtain.

The adult defendant in the Abu Khdeir case, Ben-David, was sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years and was ordered to pay the Abu Khdeir family 150,000 shekels in compensation. One of the two minors was sentenced to life in prison, while the other was given a 21 year sentence. Each was ordered to pay the Abu Khdeirs 30,000 shekels. In April the Abu Khdeir family filed a lawsuit of its own against the three for 5.6 million shekels.

In unrelated cases about a year ago, the civil branch of the Jerusalem prosecutor’s office filed two lawsuits against the East Jerusalem families of terrorists who killed Israelis seeking similar compensation. In those cases too, the prosecutors were directed to investigate whether the families had financial means, and even though few assets were found, the claims proceeded and remain pending.

The state is demanding about 2 million shekels in connection with which each victims of the attacks. It issued a statement on the filing of those civil suits saying that in addition to recovering sums that the state had paid out in compensation, the suits would send a clear message that the state would not hesitate to file civil claims against perpetrators of terrorism.

In the case of Fadi Qunbar, the terrorist who rammed a car into pedestrians in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanetziv neighborhood in January 2017, the state filed suit for 8 million shekels against his widow and four children, the oldest of whom is eight. An investigation into the family’s finances revealed that the family owned the truck that Qunbar had used to commit the attack. The family’s home has been razed. A second suit was filed against the family of a terrorist who shot and killed two people in Jerusalem in October 2016.

The Prosecutor’s Office said prior to filing civil suits against terrorists or their families to reimburse the state for compensation, it does an economic feasibility examination, based on identical economic criteria and irrespective of race, religion or gender of the defendants — to avoid wasting state resources on filing claims that are uncollectible if a judgment in the state’s favor is rendered. In the Abu Khdeir murder case, the prosecutor’s office said, prosecutors considered suing the murderers but after a preliminary economic feasibility examination, they concluded they did not own assets of economic value: and there is no point in suing at this time.