Bringing Ahlam Al-Tamimi to Justice

by Hugh Fitzgerald

Ahlam Al-Tamimi is the Palestinian terrorist who masterminded the suicide bombing at the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem in 2001, killing 15 people and injuring 130 wounded. Two of the dead were American citizens. Tamimi now lives in Jordan, where she has become a celebrity, a model of conduct for young girls to emulate and, for a time, the host of her own television show. The American government wants Jordan to hand her over, so that she can be put on trial for the killing of the two Americans. Jordan has so far refused, and the Bidenites, instead of pressuring Jordan economically, have steadily increased aid to Jordan, so much so that it is now the second-largest recipient of aid from the U.S.

More on Ahlam Tamimi, and the American failure to force her extradition to the U.S., is discussed here.

The US government continues to seek her extradition and the Government of Jordan’s assistance in bringing her to justice for her role in the heinous attack,” the US National Security Council said in a statement in July.

For Roth, such responses are woefully insufficient.

“What does ‘continues to seek’ mean in these circumstances?” he said. “This isn’t Saddam Hussein that you’re trying to bring to comply with your request. You have to ask yourself, why is it that on the one hand, the United States keeps saying we really, really want to bring her to justice – and at the same time, it keeps praising Jordan to the skies and keeps pumping money to the point where Jordan has now gone on [sic] top of the list? You don’t need to be obsessive to step back from that and say, ‘this is really weird.’”

It’s called hypocrisy. The Bidenites keep assuring the Roths that they are doing their utmost to persuade Jordan to extradite Al-Tamimi, but instead of using the only leverage they have – which is to cut aid to Jordan – they keep increasing that aid, until Jordan has become the second-highest recipient of American aid. As a result, Amman is convinced that the Americans aren’t serious about wanting Al-Tamimi back. Some may suspect that in the American government, there are those who worry that if she is put on trial in the U.S., sympathetic terrorists will strike inside our country, and that the satisfaction of putting Al-Tamimi behind bars is outweighed by the need to avoid terrorist attacks in response to her trial, sentencing, and incarceration.

Since Jordan refused to hand Tamimi over, US aid to the Kingdom continues to flow despite a provision in recent spending bills that no assistance be provided to countries refusing to honor extradition treaties for crimes that carry the death penalty or a life sentence, as Tamimi’s does.

The flow of American aid to Jordan hasn’t stopped, or slowed; it has instead steadily increased. And this is done, some argue, in defiance of “the provision in recent spending bills that no assistance be provided to countries refusing to honor extradition treaties.” Jordan’s reply is that since its parliament failed to ratify the 1995 extradition treaty with the U.S., it cannot be faulted for failing to honor a treaty that never came into being. But Congress can rewrite that provision to include the case where no extradition treaty has come into effect: “No assistance should be provided to countries that refuse to honor requests for extradition of those accused of crimes that carry the death penalty or a life sentence.”

Ben Fishman, a Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, described to The Algemeiner why Congress continues to provide massive amounts of aid to Jordan.

“I would characterize [the US-Jordan strategic relationship] as strongly bipartisan,” Fishman said. “There’s a lot of sympathy for Jordan’s position and a willingness to support Jordan with both aid and strategic elements of our diplomacy to make sure that Jordan is as stable as possible. In part, because an unstable Jordan reflects an unstable region and ultimately is bad for Israel.”

Why is there such indulgent attitude toward Amman? An “unstable” Jordan just might be “bad for Israel”— it’s not certain – but what is certain is that allowing a mass-murdering terrorist to escape justice, by letting her remain in Jordan where she is feted and lionized, will make life more dangerous for Israelis, as young Palestinians strive to emulate Ahlam Al-Tamimi.

Roth, however, believes that successive US administrations have lacked the willpower to force Jordan’s hand in demanding Tamimi’s extradition.

“The United States holds all of the cards in this relationship and never wants to own up to it,” he said.

But why not? It’s an odd, inexplicable, counterproductive stand.