Why Don’t the Americans Demand Jordan Hand Over Ahlam Al-Tamimi?

by Hugh Fitzgerald

The arch-terrorist Ahlam Al-Tamimi was the mastermind of the 2001 suicide bombing of the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem. She chose the site because it was a favorite of mothers taking their children out for a lunchtime treat, and she expected – correctly – a lot of casualties. She also drove the suicide bomber, and his bomb, to the site. She later would describe how proud she was after the fact to hear how the numbers of dead and wounded kept increasing; it put a broad smile on her face, and on the faces of all the other Arabs who were on a bus with her the day of the Sbarro bombing. Al-Tamimi was sentenced by Israel to life in prison, but in 2011, she was freed in that lopsided prisoner exchange, in which Israel freed 1,027 prisoners in exchange for one soldier, Gilad Shalit. She promptly went to Jordan, where she was feted and made much of, a true model for the young women of Jordan to emulate; she even ended up with her own television show. The Americans keep asking for her to be handed over for trial in the U.S., because two of the people killed at the Sbarro pizzeria were Americans. Jordan claims it never ratified an extradition treaty with the U.S., but the American government insists otherwise. And of course, there is nothing preventing the Jordanians from handing Ahlam Al-Tamimi over to the Americans, even without an extradition treaty.

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

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is widely considered one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East. US aid to Jordan has quietly tripled in the past 15 years, overtaking every regular US aid recipient in the world except Israel. December’s Congressional omnibus spending bill gave the kingdom $1.65 billion – $200 million more than the two countries had agreed to in a seven-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed in September. A White House press readout from July of President Joe Biden’s most recent meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II describes the “unwavering support” the US provides Jordan.

Why exactly, does Jordan deserve its reputation as “one of American’s closest allies in the Middle East”? Why does Washington keep increasing aid to Jordan, tripling it in 15 years, so that it is now the second largest recipient of American aid? It’s hard to understand. Jordan does not permit American military to be stationed on its soil, unlike Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Qatar, and Bahrain. It has not joined the Abraham Accords, and has been distinctly unenthusiastic about this breakthrough in Israeli relations with four Arab states. Its media continue to spout the worst kind of anti-Israel propaganda, no doubt reflecting the fact that more than 60% of the population is Palestinian by origin. Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, but it has been a “cold peace” ever since. Israel’s attempts to warm up that peace, for example with people-to-people exchanges, have been rejected by Jordan. Amman has shown no gratitude for Israel supplying it both with water – some 50 million cubic meters annually – and with natural gas. And the virulent anti-Israel terrorist Ahlam al-Tamimi has been allowed, as a celebrity – next to Queen Rania she’s the most famous woman in Jordan – to have her own television show on which to spread her hatred of the Zionists.

One item conspicuously absent [from the readout of Biden’s meeting with King Abdullah] was the case of Ahlam Tamimi, a Jordanian-Palestinian woman who sits at #4 on the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists for her role in the 2001 Sbarro pizzeria suicide bombing in Jerusalem. The Sbarro bombing, deliberately timed to hit the busy lunchtime crowd at the restaurant, took the lives of 15 people, and wounded 130 others..

Ahlam Tamimi chose the Sbarro pizzeria site because she knew there would be lots of mothers with children at the restaurant, and not only would the place be packed, but mothers and children are exactly the kind of victims that cause more outrage and grief among the hated Zionists.

Two of the dead were American citizens — Malki Roth and Judith Shoshana Greenbaum, a 31-year-old New Jersey native who was pregnant at the time. More than 100 people were wounded in the attack, including four other Americans.

“It was the most traumatic experience of our lives,” said Malki’s father, Arnold Roth. “Very quickly it became clear that the woman who did it was Ahlam Tamimi, she drove the whole project. She was the one who scouted the site. She was the one who brought the bomb.”

Following her capture by the Israeli authorities, Tamimi was sentenced to 16 consecutive life terms in jail. She served just eight years before she was released along with more than 1,000 other convicted Palestinian terrorists in the 2011 deal between Israel and Hamas that secured the freedom of Gilad Shalit, an IDF soldier held captive in Gaza.

Since then, Tamimi has been living free in Jordan. The kingdom refuses to extradite her to the United States, where she has been charged with a capital crime, despite a 1995 extradition treaty between the two countries. Jordan’s highest court in 2017 blocked her extradition to the US, arguing that the treaty was never ratified by Jordan’s parliament.

Ahlam Al-Tamimi has quite a following in Jordan and the government is distinctly uneager to turn her over to the Americans.