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Israel: Amendment Expands Compensation for Victims of Terrorist Acts Abroad

(May 1, 2017) On March 21, 2017, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed legislation amending the Compensation for Victims of Hostile Actions Law.  (Compensation for Victims of Hostile Actions Law, 5730-1970 (the Law), SEFER HAHUKIM [BOOK OF LAWS, the official gazette, SH] No. 600 p. 126, as amended; Compensation for Victims of Hostile Actions (Amendment No. 34) Law, 5777-2017 (Amendment Law), SH 5777 No. 2622 p. 558, Knesset website (in Hebrew).)  To be eligible for compensation under the Law, victims of acts committed outside of Israel or an area under its control previously had to prove that their injury was caused by a “hostile act” committed by, on behalf of or in order to assist a country or an organization hostile to Israel, or pursuant to such a country’s or organization’s objectives.  Additionally, victims had to prove that the hostile act was committed overseas with the goal of harming the State of Israel or the “Jewish people.”  (The Law, §§ 1 & 18A(a).)

According to explanatory notes appended to the draft bill of the Amendment Law,

[i]n recent years there has been a rise in the number of terrorist acts around the world committed by international terrorist organizations with the objective of harming citizens in general, not specifically Jews and Israeli citizens.  Accordingly, Israeli citizens who were injured in such terrorist acts are not eligible for compensation under the Law.  This applies to the situations, among others, in which Israeli citizens were killed in the recent shooting event in Istanbul and the terrorist attack by means of a motor vehicle in Berlin.  (Compensation for Victims of Hostile Actions (Amendment No. 34) Bill (Compensation for Hostile Acts Committed Outside Israel), 5777-2017, KNESSET HATSAOT HOK [BILLS INTRODUCED BY THE KNESSET] No. 695 p. 132 (Mar. 7, 2017), Knesset website (in Hebrew).)

The Amendment Law was intended to address such situations.  It therefore authorizes the victim claims authority established under the Law to recognize harm caused to Israeli citizens or lawful residents by an act of terrorism committed outside Israel or areas under its control, “even if the act’s primary or secondary objective was not to harm Israel or the Jewish people.”  (Amendment Law, § 1, adding § 12A(a) to the Law.)

The Law provides that the claims authority will recognize a victim’s eligibility for compensation as long as the hostile act was perpetrated by an organization that has declared that at least one of its goals is to harm Israel, Israeli citizens, or Jews.  The Law further clarifies that any act committed to provide assistance to such an organization, in pursuit of its mission, on its behalf, or to further its objectives might also qualify as a hostile act for the purpose of providing compensation under the Law to victims of such acts.  (Id.)

For purposes of qualifying for compensation as the result of being a victim of a hostile act, the Amendment Law excludes harm incurred in Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, the West Bank, or Gaza by a person who entered any of these countries or areas in violation of the Law for Prevention of Infiltration (Offenses and Adjudication) 5714-1954 (SH 5714 No. 161 p. 160, as amended).  (Amendment Law, adding § 12A(c) to the Law.)  The Amendment Law provides that any payment made under the Law will be reduced by the amount paid under a foreign law or by a foreign country as compensation to victims of hostile acts.  (Amendment Law, adding § 12A(d) to the Law.)

The Amendment Law entered into effect on April 1, 2017, but will apply to any hostile act that took place on or after April 1, 2012, on the basis of which a compensation claim was approved by the approval authority established under section 10 of the Law.  (Amendment Law, § 2.)  Compensation under the Law, however, will only be paid for the period commencing on the date of the Amendment Law’s entry into effect.  (Id.)