A Very Bitter Jerusalem Bombing Anniversary
JNS.org – August 9 marks the 18th anniversary of a very dark day — the day that Ahlam Tamimi calmly picked up Izz-al-Din Shuheil al Masri from his home in al-Aqabah in Judea (the West Bank), and serenely delivered him to the Sbarro pizzeria shop in Jerusalem.
That was the site Ms. Tamimi had intentionally scoped out, because it was a popular eatery frequented by families, singles, and Jews of all ages.
It had been a sultry day, and many young students, who were off from school during the long summer recess, were looking for ways to spend their time. One of these students, Malki Roth, entered the restaurant with her best friend, Mihal Raziel. At the same time, Izz Al-Din entered the restaurant and — using a guitar case rigged with nuts, bolts, and nails, together with a suicide vest rigged with 10 kilograms of explosives — detonated himself. The explosion rocked the nearby vicinity, 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 at the time. A third American, Chana Nachenberg, lies in a permanent vegetative state.
Immediately after the bombing, Ahlam Tamimi was on a Palestinian bus back to Ramallah, and described what happened as news came in about the mounting death toll. “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 the intentions of the Americans and the Israelis, or of what the final borders of a Palestinian state that they envision might look like, or of how many billions of dollars the United States wants to throw at the Palestinian Authority and any other entity that will help in the effort to bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table, there will never be peace as long as this culture of hatred and incitement toward the wanton death of innocents is cultivated.
What is even more disturbing is that our own government has long had a condescending and patronizing attitude toward the Muslim and Arab world, so much so that we have let them literally get away with the murder of our own citizens and seek refuge there.
Ahlam Tamimi was initially arrested in Israel, where she was serving 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.
She went to Jordan, where she was treated like a conquering hero and has made an illustrious career out of her heinous 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 has been put on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” terrorist lists and there is now a $5 million reward for leading to her arrest.
Several terrorists have been extradited from Jordan at the request of the United States, all of whom are 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 US government is the single largest provider of bilateral assistance to Jordan, currently $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 even all of these economic benefits since signing a peace agreement with Israel have not changed the hearts and minds of the Jordanian people or its leadership. A recently released study conducted by IMPACT SE indicates that although the Jordanians say that 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, he was asked by several members of Congress about the request for Tamimi’s extradition. According to one staffer, he dismissively responded with, “It is not going to happen.”
End of story.
After all this American largess 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, an unabashedly pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy center in Washington, DC.