She was the last of the 16 victims of the Sbarro Massacre to die, the last victim of the Hamas terrorist Ahlam Tamimi who masterminded that terrorist attack and lives today in Jordan, free and something of a celebrity.
If the US is frustrated by Jordan's refusal to honor its extradition treaty and hand over the terrorist, it is hiding it well. On May 25, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on the 77th anniversary of Jordanian independence:
The United States and Jordan share an enduring, strategic relationship deeply rooted in shared interests and values. We appreciate the important role Jordan plays in promoting peace and security across the region and countering violent extremism. (emphasis added)
During her hearing a few weeks ago on her nomination as the next US Ambassador to Jordan, Yael Lempert resisted Sen. Ted Cruz's suggestion that every tool should be used in order to pressure Jordan into honoring its treaty, including withholding aid. Lempert replied:
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.Of course, Lempert added the expected, "I think that what I can confirm to you is that I will do everything in my power to ensure that Ahlam Tamimi faces justice in the United States," but the impression remains that somehow in the interests of Middle East peace, the US has to be careful not to apply too much pressure, that special considerations need to be taken into account.
But it's not that Jordan is completely opposed to extraditing terrorists.
Just last month, Jordan agreed with UAE to extradite Khalaf Abdul Rahman Al-Rumaithi. According to UAE, Al-Rumaithi was a wanted terrorist they had tried in absentia and sentenced to 15 years for "establishing a secret organization affiliated with the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood." On the other hand, HRW claimed he was one of the victims of the mass trials of 94 government critics of the government, resulting in 69 convictions. The Jordanian court opposed the extradition, yet Al-Rumaithi ended up being extradited anyway.
That is an interesting counterpoint to the case of Ahlam Tamimi, where the court also opposed extradition, yet despite a formal treaty, the court's decision stood, while in the case of UAE, the decision -- and authority -- of the Jordanian court was pushed aside. Arnold Roth, whose daughter was one of Tamimi's victims, pointed out the double standard:
Of course, the difference might be whether the victims were Arabs -- or Jews.
This inability of the US to pressure Arab countries on the issue of terrorism -- even when the US provides funding -- is evident in US relations with the Palestinian Authority as well.
“We are working to bring pay-to-slay to an end. Period,” Leaf said. Asked if the administration had succeeded, Leaf replied, “not yet.”Is the Biden administration working as hard to end "pay-to-slay" as it is on getting Jordan to extradite Tamimi, who is responsible for the Americans who died in the Sbarro Massacre?
As Sen. Cruz put it:
You sent a report to Congress that officially certified that the Palestinian Authority and the PLO…have not met the legal requirements for ‘terminating payments for acts of terrorism against Israeli and US citizens. Now publicly, the administration defends engaging with terrorists, you claim things are going well, but when you file a statutorily mandated report with Congress, you admit the PLO is continuing what are called ‘pay-to-slay’ payments. They are paying for terrorists to murder Americans and to murder Israelis. And nonetheless, this administration is bringing those terrorist leaders to Washington, is bringing them to cocktail parties to wine and dine political leaders. [emphasis added]
This possibility of a double standard when it comes to Middle East terrorism that affects Americans was expressed out loud in 2016 during a hearing before the Subcommittee on National Security of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The subject was Seeking Justice for Victims of Palestinian Terrorism in Israel. Chairing the hearing was then-Congressman Ron DeSantis. The issue was the Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism within the Department of Justice and whether it was fulfilling its function in obtaining justice for the families of the victims of Palestinian terrorism.
At one point, DeSantis addressed Brad Wiegmann, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the US Department of Justice. It became clear that there was a discrepancy between the number of terrorists being brought to justice who killed Americans in the Middle East as opposed to terrorists who killed Americans anywhere else in the world:
Mr. DeSantis: Mr. Wiegmann, the committee has counted that since '93, at least 64 Americans have been killed, as well as two unborn children, and 91 have been wounded by terrorists in Israel in disputed territories.
How many terrorists who have killed or wounded Americans in Israel or disputed territories has the United States indicted, extradited, or prosecuted during this time period?
Mr. Wiegmann: I think the answer is--is none.
Mr. DeSantis: Okay. How many terrorists who have killed or wounded Americans anywhere else overseas has the United States indicted, extradited, or prosecuted?
Mr. Wiegmann: I don't have an exact figure for you.
Mr. DeSantis: But it would be a decent size number, though, correct?
Mr. Wiegmann: It would be a significant number, yes.
A little later, DeSantis looked for an explanation for this discrepancy:
Mr. DeSantis: Now, it's- been alleged that the reason that DOJ does not prosecute the Palestinian terrorists who harm Americans in Israel, the disputed territories, is that the Department of Justice is concerned that such prosecutions will harm efforts to promote the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, or that it will actually harm the Palestinian Authority.
So let me ask you straight up, is that a consideration the Department of Justice?
Mr. Wiegmann: I can assure that is obsolutely not the case.
Mr. DeSantis: And has the State Department ever made arguments to the Department of Justice to handle some of the Palestinian terrorism cases differently than you may normally handle, say, a terrorism case in Asia?
Mr. Wiegmann: Absolutely not.
Yet the fact remains that American survivors of Palestinian terrorism, the families of the victims -- and the families who lost loved ones in the Sbarro Massacre are not getting the justice that was promised to them and that they deserve.