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Saturday, April 07, 2007

'Palestinian' bank allowed to re-open in New York - Update: Funds still frozen

A New York court has unfrozen $30 million in 'Palestinian' funds and allowed a 'Palestinian' bank operating in New York to re-open. The assets had been frozen and the bank closed due to a Rhode Island Court case in which the 'Palestinian Authority' had been found liable for the the murder of Yaron Ungar HY"D and his wife Efrat by 'Palestinian' terrorists in 1996. Yaron (pictured at top left) was a US citizen. I'm going to cite the al-Reuters report from Haaretz's web site (YNet has the same report) and then I will point out the inaccuracies, but since the Jerusalem Post and Arutz Sheva (link did not open) are both reporting the two essential facts (the money has been unfrozen and the bank allowed to re-open), I can only conclude that those are correct:
A New York court has ordered e30 million in Palestine Monetary Authority funds unfrozen and allowed it to resume operations in the United States after a court fight stemming from a 1996 Hamas attack.

At a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the Authority said on Saturday an April 2 ruling by the Supreme Court of the State of New York cleared the way for it to carry out functions as the Palestinian central bank.

It had been unable to access the funds or carry out U.S. dollar transactions since 2005 because of a years-old court case brought by the family of Yaron Ungar, an American who was killed along with his wife in the 1996 shooting in Israel.

The suit alleged that the Palestinian Authority was culpable because it failed to take steps to stop Hamas militants from carrying out such attacks.

The Supreme Court of the State of New York said the Palestine Monetary Authority "is a separate entity from the Palestinian Authority and the money in its name ... should be released."

"We're very, very pleased it's over," said George Abed, the Palestine Monetary Authority's governor.

"The PMA will now proceed to reengage in its full range of statutory responsibilities of safeguarding monetary and financial stability and promoting economic growth," he said.

Abed said the order would take effect within days.

"We are now free to operate in dollars in the U.S. and elsewhere," he said.

Abed said the lawsuit had prevented the authority from performing the normal functions of a central bank. Both the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Monetary Authority were established by the 1994 Oslo Accords.

The court had ruled that the monetary authority performs many of the functions of a national central bank, such as insuring the soundness of the banking system, maintaining monetary stability and encouraging economic growth.

Ungar was a Brooklyn-born rabbinical student in Israel, where he lived with his wife and two young children.

His wife, Efrat, also was killed in the attack.

In 2005, a federal court in Rhode Island ordered a freeze of all U.S.-based assets of the Palestinian Authority after the Palestinian government failed to pay e116 million in damages imposed by the court in 2004, according to legal documents.
I assume that the small e's are supposed to be dollar signs.

Here's what doesn't make sense about this report:

1. New York's highest court is the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court is actually New York's lowest state court.

2. If the freeze was imposed by a federal court (which it was), it's not clear to me how a state court can undo it.

3. Substantively, I don't see how the 'Palestinian Monetary Authority' is not part of the 'Palestinian Authority,' i.e. the 'Palestinian government.' Can anyone imagine the central bank of a country not being considered part of its government?

I have not been able to access the ruling online. If anyone has it, please drop me a note.

Previously at Israel Matzav:

Palestinian groups seek relief from court order in terrorism case

Update 11:37 AM April 8 - Funds still frozen

Haaretz is now reporting that the $30 million that were supposedly released by a New York court last week to the 'Palestinian Monetary Authority' are still frozen:
But U.S. lawyer David Strachman, who represents the Ungar family, said the funds were in fact not yet released, and remained frozen. "There are several more steps to go, and we have other mechanisms" in place to pursue the case, he told Reuters in a telephone interview on Saturday.


"We're disappointed," Strachman said of the New York ruling [that the 'Palestinian Monetary Authority' is a separate entity from the 'Palestinian Authority', "and feel the decision goes against the overwhelming weight of authority. ... The Palestinian Authority still refuses, three years later, to pay the judgment and as a result they're legal scofflaws."


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