‘We Need to Use Every Tool We Have’: Ted Cruz Calls for Extradition of Palestinian Terrorist Ahlam Tamimi
by Andrew Bernard
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Thursday at a nomination hearing for the US ambassador to Jordan called for the extradition 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.
Cruz questioned the nominee, Yael Lempert, a career diplomat currently serving as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, on whether as ambassador she would consider withholding aid to Jordan as one of the tools to get the Hashemite Kingdom to extradite Tamimi.
“I’m not asking you to commit today to withholding that aid,” Cruz said. “We need to use every tool we have. And I have no desire to cut off aid to Jordan. What I desire is to get this terrorist who murdered Americans to face justice.”
Lempert responded saying that the US relationship with Jordan was “multifaceted and extremely important,” and that she would “do everything in [her] power to ensure that Ahlam al-Tamimi faces justice in the United States,” but did not directly commit to considering withholding aid.
“Senator, I think that that would need to be weighed very carefully against the range of issues and priorities that we have with the Jordanians before considering such a step, which I think would be profound,” she added. “I would want to, if confirmed, get out there and try and work on this and see if we can make progress in other ways.”
Cruz said that he would follow up with Lempert in writing given her predecessors’ commitment to considering that step.
Jordan is widely considered to be one of America’s closest allies in the region and is one of the largest recipients of US aid in the world. In the last Congressional spending bill in December, Jordan was given $1.65 billion – $200 million more than the two countries had agreed to in a seven-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed in September.
Despite that aid, Jordan refuses to extradite Tamimi, one of the architects of the 2001 Sbarro bombing in Jerusalem that took the lives of 15 people. Two of the dead were American citizens — Malki Roth, aged 15, 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.
Following her capture by the Israeli authorities, Tamimi was sentenced to 16 consecutive life terms in jail but served just eight years before she was released as part of 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.
In an interview with The Algemeiner in January, Malki Roth’s father Arnold Roth, who alongside his wife continues to campaign for Tamimi’s extradition, said that the US has failed to sufficiently use its leverage over Jordan to extradite Tamimi.
“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,” Roth said. “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 top of the list? You don’t need to be obsessive to step back from that and say, ‘this is really weird.’”
Lempert’s nomination will be voted on by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before being considered by the full Senate.