Sarah N. Stern
August 9 marked the 18th anniversary of a very dark day. That was the day that Ahlam Tamimi calmly picked up Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri from his home in al-Aqabah in the West Bank and serenely delivered him to the Sbarro pizzeria shop in Jerusalem. That was the site Ms. Tamimi had scoped out because it was a popular eatery frequented by families, singles and Jews of all ages.
It had been a hot day, and many young students, who were off from school for the long summer recess, were looking for ways to spend their time. Malki Roth entered the restaurant with her best friend, Michal Raziel. At the same time, Izz al-Din entered the restaurant and detonated himself, using a guitar case full of nuts, bolts and nails and a suicide vest rigged with 10 kilograms of explosives. The explosion rocked the area, murdering 15 people, eight of them children.
Two of the murdered were American citizens: 15-year-old Roth, and Judith Greenbaum, 31, who was five months pregnant. A third American, Chana Nachenberg, is in a permanent vegetative state.
Immediately after the bombing, Ahlam Tamimi took a Palestinian bus back to Ramallah, and described what happened as news of the mounting death toll reached them. “As the number of dead kept increasing, the passengers were applauding. They didn’t even know that I was among them,” she said. “On the way back [to Ramallah], we passed a Palestinian police checkpoint, and the policemen were laughing. One of them stuck his head in and said: ‘Congratulations to us all.’ Everybody was happy.”
Herein lies the heart of the matter regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which also pertains to our treatment of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
Irrespective of American and Israeli intentions, or of their vision of a Palestinian state’s final borders, or of how many billions of dollars the United States wants to throw at the Palestinian Authority and any other entity to bring them to the negotiating table, there will never be peace as long as this culture of hatred and incitement towards the deaths of innocents is cultivated.
Our own government has long had a condescending and patronizing attitude towards the Muslim and Arab world, so much so that we have let them literally get away with the murder of our own citizens.
Alam Tamimi was initially arrested in Israel and sentenced to 16 consecutive life sentences. In 2011 she was released, together with 1,026 other Hamas terrorists with blood on their hands, in exchange for kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit. Tamimi went to Jordan, where she was treated like a conquering hero and made a career out of her crime. At one point, she was given her own Hamas-sponsored television show and even appeared on the secular Jordanian show Carnival, where she was received like visiting royalty.
According to American law (18 USC, 2332 b), any time an American is murdered abroad, the United States has jurisdiction and is directed to prosecute the perpetrator to the full extent of the law. There is no statute of limitations.
In March of 2017, the FBI met with Malki’s parents, Arnold and Frimet Roth, and unsealed a warrant for Tamimi’s arrest, demanding her extradition from Jordan. (Jordan signed an extradition treaty with the United States in 1995.) Tamimi is on the FBI’s Most Wanted lists, and there is a $5 million award leading to her arrest.
Several terrorists have been extradited from Jordan at the request of the United States, all of them now serving out lengthy sentences in American jails.
However, in the case of Tamimi, the government of Jordan has suddenly said that no such extradition treaty exists.
The U.S. government is the single largest provider of bilateral assistance to Jordan, currently to the tune of $1.7 billion a year. The Israeli government has been working with the Jordanian government since the 1994 peace treaty was signed, helping them with agriculture, irrigation and oil projects. But the biggest peace dividend for Jordan was the initiation of trilateral Jordanian-Israeli American Qualifying Industrial Zones, which opened the door for a Jordanian-American free trade agreement. This, in turn, opened the door to the World Trade Association and the Greater Arab Free Trade Area, widening the door for Jordan to trade with the wealthy Gulf Arab states.
Yet all of these economic benefits since signing the peace agreement with Israel have not changed the hearts and minds of the Jordanian people or their leadership. A recently released study conducted by IMPACT SE indicates that although Jordanians say that their new textbooks teach tolerance, they have done little to alter hatred of Israel and Jews. One textbook publishes a dialogue between a Palestinian grandmother and granddaughter in which she says, “I wish that I will see Palestine liberated from the Zionist occupation.”
When King Abdullah came to the United States recently, several members of Congress asked him about the request for Tamimi’s extradition. According to one staffer, he dismissively responded, “It’s not going to happen.”
After all this American largesse and Israeli know-how, the Jordanians have been offering safe haven to a cold-blooded murderer of American citizens who has made a career out of her crime.
Tamimi knows this. Recently, she said, “Being in Jordan gives me strength, because no extradition treaty exists with the United States.”
Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth.