Why Doesn’t the U.S. Cut Aid to Jordan?

by Hugh Fitzgerald

The father of one of Palestinian terrorist murderer Ahlam Al-Tamimi’s American victims, Arnold Roth, notes that it is Jordan that is dependent on the U.S. for its economic wellbeing. The huge amounts given annually, that have now risen to $1.65 billion, are what keep the Amman government afloat. At any time the American government could simply decrease that aid, or even more devastatingly, end it altogether, unless and until Jordan hands over Al-Tamimi. The Americans have the upper hand, but seem unwilling to realize it. More on Ahlam Tamimi, and the American failure to force her extradition to the U.S., is discussed here.

While the US might be able to force a deal by withholding aid, the Washington Institute’s Fishman says the nature of the US-Jordan relationship would make that move a mistake.

“We don’t threaten aid to our friends,” he said. “It would shoot ourselves in the foot to withhold this aid, because that’s a critical part of what Jordan needs to survive for the time being and we want Jordan to survive. And dealing with one difficult case in a professional way and a legal way is far better than threatening something that ultimately isn’t in our interest anyway.”

“We don’t threaten aid to our friends”? Why of course we do. In 1953, Secretary of State Dulles suspended aid to Israel after it ignored US and United Nation’s demands that year that it halt work on a Jordan River canal; work on the canal stopped that October, and US aid flows soon resumed.

In 1957, President Eisenhower threatened to end $100 million in annual aid to Israel if it did not immediately withdraw its troops from the Sinai. Israel quickly complied. In 1992, Secretary of State Baker threatened to cut off $10 billion in loan guarantees if Israel didn’t stop building settlements; Israel stopped its settlement building. Joe Biden himself, as a Senator in 1982, harshly threatened Menachem Begin with cutting off aid to Israel if settlement building wasn’t stopped. Begin forcefully replied to Biden:

“Don’t threaten us with cutting off your aid. It will not work. I am not a Jew with trembling knees. I am a proud Jew with 3,700 years of civilized history. Nobody came to our aid when we were dying in the gas chambers and ovens. Nobody came to our aid when we were striving to create our country. We paid for it. We fought for it. We died for it. We will stand by our principles. We will defend them. And, when necessary, we will die for them again, with or without your aid.”

After that response,, nothing more was heard from Biden about cutting aid to Israel.

“It’s obviously a very difficult domestic issue within Jordan,” he [Fishman] said. “It shouldn’t be. But it is.”

A decent government in Amman would have turned Ahlam Al-Tamimi over to Washington, with or without an extradition treaty. The refusal to do so reflects the Jordanian government’s fear of the response of its majority Palestinian population, for whom Al-Tamimi remains a hero, the girl who managed to arrange a suicide bombing – choosing the target, and bringing both bomber and bomb to the site — that killed 15 Jews and wounded 130.

The Algemeiner reached out to the Jordanian Embassy in Washington for comment about whether the Jordanian government believes it has a valid extradition treaty with the United States and for its views on the Ahlam Tamimi case, but they did not provide a response.

Despite his uphill battle, Roth remains committed to seeing Tamimi brought to justice.

“There’s never been a political dimension in the way we see it,” he said. “It’s not about the Arab/Israel conflict, nor about Dems vs. GOP. It’s not about anything but the doing of justice. On the doing of justice, the fair and honest way to describe what we are experiencing is that we are being betrayed. We’re pushing ahead and have no intention of surrendering — but it pains Frimet and me that we are forced to do this essentially alone.”

The American government has allowed the government of Jordan to continue to shelter someone who is responsible for the deaths of two Americans (as well as of many Israeli women and children). Jordan continues to hide behind the claim that it has “no extradition treaty with the U.S. because our parliament never ratified it.” This deliberately misses the point. Even without an extradition treaty, Jordan can voluntarily hand over someone who is wanted for a capital crime.

The only kind of pressure that can change Jordan’s mind on Ahlam al-Tamimi is for Washington to slash, or to shut down entirely, its aid to Amman. And this is exactly the move that Washington is afraid to make, having convinced itself that a “stable Jordan” is more important than seeing that murderers of Americans are punished. Jordan has been exaggerating its fragility in order to keep the Americans from pressuring it. The King, and his Bedouin troops, are quite capable of suppressing a challenge to his authority. The Bidenites ought to immediately cut the aid to Jordan in half – a move the Republicans in Congress will be glad to support — while promising to restore it when Ahlam Al-Tamimi is handed over. The ball is then in King Abdullah’s court. He’ll have to decide if continuing to give refuge to a mass murderer is worth doing, even if Jordan loses nearly $850 million as a result.