A story we’ve been following closely this year has been the battle between the United States, Israel, and China over a lawsuit against the Bank of China. It goes like this: Back in 2006, an Islamic Jihad suicide bomber killed 11 people near the Tel Aviv bus station. One of them was 16-year-old Daniel Cantor Wultz, an American citizen. Thus began a years-long process to sue the Bank of China, which helped Islamic Jihad, the terrorist group responsible for the attack, funnel its cash.
The lawsuit seemed ready to move forward before things got a little complicated. As Sam Chester noted in August:
Because Wultz was the only American among the victims, the Israeli government, under Ehud Olmert, encouraged Wultz’s parents, Sheryl and Yekutiel, to file suit in U.S. federal court claiming damages. Last year, Ron Dermer—Netanyahu’s American-born senior adviser and, as of next month, Israel’s new ambassador to Washington—provided the Wultz family with written assurances that Israeli officials would testify. According to the Wultz family’s lawyer, Lee Wolosky—who worked in the White House as a counterterrorism official under both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush—those guarantees were instrumental in convincing the family to proceed with the case.
But now, six years later, the lawsuit may have been dealt a fatal blow by Israel’s own hand. Earlier this year, with his May visit to China looming, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apparently succumbed to pressure from Beijing to prevent a former Israeli intelligence official, Uzi Shaya, from testifying in the Wultz case. According to reports in Yediot Ahronot and other outlets, Beijing threatened to cancel the Sino-Israeli summit unless Netanyahu blocked Shaya from testifying.
Read the whole thing, of course. Chester happened to be in town and dropped by the Tablet office today. He told me that one of the stranger aspects of tracking this story has been the lag between the developments across the months. Not an hour after he left, the AP reported a development. The Wultz family filed in court today accusing Israel of buckling under Chinese pressure.
The court filing included some potentially embarrassing accusations against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying he had barred the witness from testifying in order to bring “75 of his closest friends and family” on an official visit to China. It comes as China’s foreign minister is visiting Israel.
As the AP points out, this case greatly undermines Netanyahu, who styles himself as a global leader in the fight against terrorism. Meanwhile, Israel continues to be pulled between two poles, each with not insignificant ramifications.