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Judge slams U.S. stance on terror suit

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — A federal judge slammed as "mealy-mouthed" the U.S. policy of avoiding a position on lawsuits against the PLO.

"The executive branch of the United States has been particularly unhelpful in resolving this difficult motion," Judge Gladys Kessler wrote in an opinion this week in a ruling that allows the family of Esh Gilmore, murdered in Jerusalem in 2000, to go ahead with its lawsuit against the Palestine Liberation Organization. The family claims that the PLO-allied militia, the Tanzim, was behind the shooting attack that left Gilmore dead.

Kessler, a District Court judge in Washington whose decision was first obtained by Politico, had sought guidance from the State Department on the foreign policy implications of going forward with the case. The Obama administration, consistent with the Bush administration, has avoided commenting on such suits.

"The court requested that the State Department file a statement of interest in order to understand the international ramifications of any order it might enter, and to be apprised of our government’s position about such ramifications," Kessler wrote.

Referring to an earlier State Department statement concerning a separate lawsuit against the PLO, Kessler said: "It filed the identical mealy-mouthed notice there as it did in this case. That notice, for all practical purposes, said nothing and certainly provided no substantive guidance whatsoever to the court regarding the government’s position or concerns about any impact a decision might have on the delicate situation in the Middle East."

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