Thursday, August 04, 2022

03-Aug-22: As Biden's decisiveness is applauded, we're left wondering

From Associated Press
[A version of this post by Frimet Roth was published as a blog on the Times of Israel site.]

Recent blatant discrimination against our murdered Jewish child is a hard pill to swallow. 

First came the preferential treatment of the Abu Akleh family which was granted a private meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington. The latter followed that up with a phone call to Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Saturday to pressure him to publicize the conclusions of Israel's investigation into Akleh's killing. And to do so asap!

On the heels of those attempts to appease Palestinian supporters came the assassination of Ayman al-Zawahiri. In its wake, President Biden's speech was replete with assurances regarding his administration's commitment to eliminate terrorists. 

But they rang hollow for us.

We heard him declare
"The United States continues to demonstrate our resolve and our capacity to defend the American people against those who seek to do us harm. You know, we - we make it clear again tonight that no matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out."
Where is that resolve vis a vis Ahlam Tamimi? Why isn't the President determined to defend Americans from her incitement to terror and to bring her to justice for the murders she has committed?

Tamimi need not be found - because she isn't hiding. The regime granting her refuge - the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan - has a valid extradition treaty with the U.S. and is a revered ally.

In fact, there is a State Department reward of $5 million for Tamimi's capture. She has been indicted by the Department of Justice and her extradition has been formally demanded. The pieces are all in place for justice to happen.

Then what is the obstacle?

The many excuses we have been fed by politicians and other influencers are patently just that: excuses. From "But Jordan's 'King' would be overthrown" to "the Middle East would implode" to "Israel doesn't want her to be extradited". 

The excuses are numerous, lame and disingenuous.

So what is the real reason that nobody wants to see our child's murderer, a mass murderer, self-admitted, brought to justice?

We have our conjectures. And they don't speak well for the values and morality of the politicians we confront on both sides of the aisle.

Friday, July 22, 2022

22-Jul-22: The loneliest battle of my life

An edited version of the article that follows, written in English by Frimet Roth, was published in Hebrew in the pages of Haaretz and on its Hebrew website last week [here]. The title, translated into English: "The woman responsible for my daughter's murder remains free."

My husband Arnold and I never expected to be involved in political activities of any kind, and certainly not at this stage of our lives. 

We have raised children who are now raising their own children. By our own standards we have lived constructive lives. And we have kept away from politics and politicians the whole time.

Now, more than thirty years after we settled in Jerusalem as olim from Australia and the United States, we find ourselves in one of the loneliest battles it’s possible to imagine.

There is a woman who lives about an hour from here, a woman we have never met. We have spent years trying to get her imprisoned for the rest of her life.

On March 14, 2017, the Department of Justice in Washington charged Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi with “conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against US nationals outside the US, resulting in death.

Her weapon of mass destruction was a human: a man with an explosives-and-shrapnel-filled guitar-case on his back. He detonated while standing at the counter of the crowded Sbarro pizzeria in the center of Jerusalem on August 9. 2001. The powerful blast decapitated him and destroyed the bustling premises and everything inside. Tamimi later called the massacre “my operation” in one of her many triumphant social posts.

Intending to kill as many children as possible, she came to Jerusalem on August 9, 2001, age 21 and dressed in clothes that made her look Israeli instead of the Islamist zealot that she really was. She had already chosen the pizzeria as her target and brought the bomb right up to its door. Instructing her young male companion on when and how to explode, she ran from the scene. By the time he did what she told him, she had already escaped to safety.

A few hours later, she was the reader of the evening news at a Palestinian TV station in Ramallah called Al-Istiqlal. We weren’t watching.

* * *

We buried our smiley, talented, much-loved Malki, 15, the next afternoon.

Tamimi descended into Israel’s military courts system and then prison in the weeks and years that followed. No one from the government ever contacted us; we knew only what the Israeli public knew. Our sources were the same as everyone else’s.

Then something incomprehensible happened. 

In October 2011, Netanyahu announced that he had done a deal to get back Gilad Shalit, a soldier held for ransom by Hamas. The price: freedom for 1,027 convicted terrorists, most of them killers. We turned to the media to express the incomprehensibility of what was being done and our rejection of the idea that the Sbarro bomber should ever be released under any conditions.

No one from the government of Israel informed us or asked us what we think – and Tamimi’s sixteen terms of life imprisonment ended just like that. Eight years after she was sentenced, the monster walked free.

* * *

Frimet was interviewed by Haaretz on the day
the Shalit Deal was consummated
The awful reality turned unbearable just a couple of months after Tamimi settled back in Jordan where she was born and educated: she was given her own shiny new weekly television show, beamed by satellite every Friday night into all parts of the Arabic speaking world via the Al-Quds TV channel operated by Hamas.

"Naseem Al Ahrar" (translation: “Breezes of the Free”), encouraged its audience to admire and support terror and those who do it. It became a hit that ran for five years.

The week it started to appear on television, my husband went to Washington. I couldn’t travel but I went with him in the form of a video clip we recorded at our home the night he traveled. Together the two of us tried to persuade a room full of senior Department of Justice and FBI officials that criminal charges should be brought against the Sbarro mastermind. No case of Palestinian Arab terror leading to the murder of Americans in Israel had ever been prosecuted by the US government before, though a law enabling this had been on the books for years. The key factor was that Malki had dual American and Israeli citizenship.

***

That Washington DC chapter happened in February 2012. We felt it went well, but no one told us that a federal judge signed the criminal complaint on July 15, 2013. We didn’t know US diplomats were negotiating with Jordan to extradite her. We were given no sign that the charges even existed.

We learned about them in a March 14, 2017 private meeting with DOJ representatives in Jerusalem. They came here to tell us. Tamimi became an FBI Most Wanted terrorist a few hours later, only the second woman ever to be put on that list. An arrest order and extradition request were delivered to the Hashemite Kingdom at about the same hour that we met with the Americans.

We imagined a road ahead leading to trial and imprisonment. In less than a week, we learned how naïve we were.

***

The five years that followed have been hard. The DOJ people making the Tamimi announcement in Washington seemed righteous and determined. But they very soon became unreachable, at least to us.

Jordan’s highest court ruled later that same week that the 1995 Clinton/King Hussein Extradition Treaty was invalid. The reasons were absurdly technical and as we have since learned, don’t hold water. We learned this by suing the US State Department two years ago. If we had any doubt before, we now knew that the Jordanian government was concealing the truth in order to keep this immensely popular figure safe from the Americans.

In the years since March 2017, the US has stated formally — but very quietly — that the treaty actually is valid. But they have never made a single public call telling Jordan to hand her over to US law enforcement. Meanwhile Jordan has become one of the three largest recipients of massive US foreign aid. Tamimi lives free in Amman, never in hiding for even a day.

It’s not only Washington that’s lost its voice. America’s major Jewish organizations have almost entirely failed to urge the US to enforce its own criminal code or its own treaty to bring Tamimi to justice.

Through writing, blogging, speaking via video conference wherever we are invited, we keep the campaign alive. We wrote to President Biden last Sunday asking him in a private letter to meet with us, to talk with us about how it can be that America’s most wanted female fugitive remains free to keep inciting other people, especially children and teenagers, to do more terror. The White House has not responded but told Associated Press on Monday that they have no intention of responding to the Roths’ letter.

In Israel’s power circles, our voices get close to zero attention, and not for lack of trying. Israel has done nothing to help bring Tamimi to American justice.

We understand the political calculus: terror bad, King Abdullah good, mustn’t undermine him. But if you see justice as a supreme value, it’s hard not to feel betrayed.

***

Four weeks from now, we will mark our precious Malki’s 21st yahrzeit, the anniversary of her murder. With time, it strangely becomes ever more painful to think about her. Perhaps this is because the list of milestones she has missed grows with each day for me.

I imagine her as a mother and wife. A musician perhaps - she played the classical flute exceptionally well already at the age of fifteen. As an occupational therapist – the field she told me she hoped to study.
Malki

I imagine conversations where I share personal experiences with her. She was not only my oldest daughter but a friend as well.

Kindness, empathy and generosity were second nature to her - towards her parents, her six siblings, her many friends. She even extended those traits to her youngest sibling, Haya, who was and remains profoundly disabled: blind, unable to speak, to stand, to sit, to respond in any way.

But Malki lavished love and attention on her and reached out as well to other children with disabilities in our neighborhood, at her school, in summer camps.

At school, she didn't excel but did passably well. Studying for exams only stole time from her other activities - artwork, heart-to-heart conversations at the youth group where she was an enthusiastic madricha.

I long to do more for her. But all that is left for me is to honor her by bringing her murderer to justice. With every letter my husband and I write to powerful and influential people, with every phone call we make, with every interview we give to the media, I feel that I am giving a gift to our Malki.

POSTSCRIPT: More than 20,000 justice-minded people from all parts of the world have already answered our request to sign our petition. It urges the Secretary of State in Washington to do what should have been in 2013 when a federal judge signed a criminal indictment against Tamimi: tell Jordan to hand her over to the still-waiting US law enforcement officials so she can be tried in a court of justice under US law as the Jordan/US extradition treaty explicitly requires. To sign the petition, go to change.org/ExtraditeTamimi. Thank you. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

12-Jul-22: No political dimension: Our letter to President Biden and his answer

Another AP story from a year ago [Image Source]

Associated Press began reporting last night (Monday) that the White House has already responded to the letter we emailed to President Joseph Biden on Sunday [we described that here: "11-Jul-22: President Biden is heading to Jerusalem and we're asking for a few minutes of his time"]. 

They say:

The U.S. said Monday it is still seeking the extradition of a Palestinian woman in Jordan convicted of aiding a suicide bomber in Jerusalem in 2001. But it declined to comment on a request from the family of one of the victims for a meeting with President Joe Biden... The Roths have been waging a campaign for the extradition of Tamimi since she was released by Israel in a 2011 prisoner swap with the Hamas militant group and sent to her native Jordan, where she lives freely and has been a familiar face in the media... ["US seeks extradition of Palestinian attacker in Jordan", AP, July 11, 2022]

The AP report goes on to quote a high-level source that

“The U.S. government continues to seek her extradition and the Government of Jordan’s assistance in bringing her to justice for her role in the heinous attack,” the National Security Council said Monday.

Continuing to seek her extradition. It's a term that needs some context. And we're happy to provide it. 

The US has never made a single public call on Jordan to extradite Tamimi, beyond the formal request (under a 1995 extradition  treaty which is valid and in force) in 2017. 

It has also never publicly criticized Jordan for breaching the treaty. This despite the reality that Tamimi has lived free in Jordan since October 2011, traveling freely from Jordan throughout the Arab world to address rallies and make blood-curdling pro-terror speeches, while being the presenter of her own made-in-Jordan weekly TV program devoted to terror, terrorists and the need to support both. 

We're genuinely glad to be told that the US is continuing to pursue extradition. But after so many years of zero progress, is it not time to ask what those efforts are? And why they don't succeed? Jordan, after all, is a small but strategic ally, massively dependent on US largesse, the beneficiary of a whole raft of made-in-USA special facilities, programs and strategically helpful attention.

It's fair to say we are disappointed by the non-response. 

And allow us to be clear about this aspect: no one has been in touch with us from the President's staff, the State Department, the National Security Council or the US Embassy in Israel.

Jordan's royals and the Bidens - July 2021

But here's the point. Throughout the years of our immensely frustrating campaign to see the government of the United States respect and defend its own laws, criminal code and treaties in relation to the Tamimi case, poor - even absent - communication from US government officials has been an almost invariable constant.

The Tamimi case has special significance to us. 

That's in large part because the Jordanian fugitive planted the human bomb at the Jerusalem pizzeria in August 2001 whose explosive malevolence erased sixteen lives, one of whom was the life of our beloved fifteen year old daughter Malki. Another American woman, a tourist visiting from New Jersey, was murdered along with the unborn child in her womb. And another American woman was rendered so profoundly brain-damaged that she has remained in a comatose state from that summer 2001 afternoon until today.

Now that the Biden team have explicitly blocked our efforts to press the case, we feel justified in sharing the letter we sent him to which no answer will ever come. 

Here it is.

July 10, 2022

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500-0005 

Dear President Biden,

Extraditing our child’s killer from Jordan

As you arrive in Jerusalem, we write to remind you of the open letter we addressed to you in the pages of the Wall Street Journal last summer. It appeared on the day you hosted Jordan’s monarch in the Oval Office of the White House: [“Jordan Harbors Our Daughter’s Killer | Biden should demand the extradition of Ahlam Tamimi”, Frimet and Arnold Roth, Wall Street Journal, July 18, 2021]. 

It was distressing to us that you did not respond in any way, not via the White House press spokesperson; not via any members of your staff; not in the months that followed; not even when you hosted the same king in the same Oval Office this past May.

Our letter then, and the thoughts we share with you below, have no political dimension to them. And in sharp contrast to the letter from the family of an Aljazeera reporter shot and killed as she stood in the midst of a firefight between Palestinian Arab gunmen and Israeli forces in Jenin, it’s not necessary for us to assert again and again – as they do about their case – what we believe to be the cause of the death for which we seek accountability. It’s tragically clear.

Our daughter Malki, a sweet American girl who never reached her sixteenth birthday, was murdered by a Jordanian reporter called Ahlam Tamimi. In contrast to the Shireen Abu Akleh case, no committees of enquiry, not the United Nations or the New York Times or the Washington Post or CNN or the Associated Press or B’Tselem or even the White House spokesperson are needed to lay the blame.

A massacre happened at a pizzeria in the heart of Jerusalem on a hot summer vacation day when it was filled with children. Tamimi, again and again, on television, via YouTube and in live appearances, has said she did it. She calls it “my operation”. She brags about what she did. In a viral interview, she said “I admit that I was a bit disappointed, because I had hoped for a larger toll.” 

Last October in a video conference to Turkish schoolgirls and young women [source] she called the bombing “a crown on my head. By the grace of Allah, I joined the annals of history by committing the best act, the best operation, the best path - the path of Jihad.

Tamimi has never expressed a syllable of regret beyond saying of the children she targeted that she wishes more had been killed that day.

She has been an FBI Most Wanted terrorist since March 14, 2017, the day that long-sealed US federal terror charges were finally made public. And in all the time that has passed, she has lived free as a bird in Jordan. She is still there, shielded by Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

In the 5+ years since the charges were made public, the two of us have reached out to a depressingly long list of officials and lawmakers seeking to bring an end to the cruel game being played at our expense. It involves serious people with extraordinary power and influence telling us (those who bother to respond at all since most prefer to look away or pretend not to hear) that the US “continues to seek her extradition and will continue to work to ensure she faces justice” [source].

Years of this.

Jordan, to say it clearly, is not a free or liberal place. Its media are among the mostly tightly restricted of any country and its governments are assiduous in executing the will of King Abdullah. Yet for five years, Tamimi had her own terror-advocating TV show, made in Jordan and distributed from there to Arabic-speaking audiences throughout the world. The ruler whom you so admire, whom you praised lavishly last summer [“Biden calls Jordan king a loyal ally in ‘tough neighborhood’”, The Associated Press, July 20, 2021] must have approved it. On any view, he certainly did nothing to shut it down.

Five years, sir.

Something is obviously terribly wrong with how the pursuit of America’s most wanted female fugitive is going. If it’s accountability for her crimes that we speak – and accountability is what your press spokesperson has invoked over and again these past few weeks in the Aljazeera reporter’s case – then it’s worth asking whether five years is enough time to have achieved that.

Nothing in our handful of encounters with senior figures in your State Department and that of President Trump has given us even the smallest hope that the US wants this woman in chains, on a flight from Amman and extradited to a DC courthouse.

The opposite is true. When politicians and their bureaucrats want to justify their action or inaction, they rarely lack the words. But in our case, most by far of our approaches to Washington insiders have been answered with silence. We want to think it stems from shame and embarrassment but that’s speculative on our part. What is abundantly clear is that getting justice for the small handful of American lives, all of them Jewish, extinguished among a much larger number of Tamimi’s victims, is – in the cold calculus of today’s Washington – evidently not worth the political irritation it will cause.

We want to explain this to you better in a face-to-face meeting. We want you to look us in the eyes, Mr. President, and tell us how Jordan’s king can be a praiseworthy ally even as he cynically tramples –on narrow technical grounds that it turns out don’t hold water – a treaty made by President Clinton and King Hussein, his greatly admired father.

That treaty has for a quarter century been the essential tool that enabled US law enforcement to apprehend a string of Jordanian terrorists and bring them to trial and eventually prison in the US. It’s a valuable part of America’s constant, essential vigilance against the dark forces of jihad. There’s a much larger issue than simply justice for the life of an American child at stake when an ally – one who benefits from billions of dollars in US taxpayer funded aid each year – trashes a bilateral agreement at will.

In your Washington Post opinion piece on Saturday [“Joe Biden: Why I’m going to Saudi Arabia”, Washington Post., July 9, 2022] you mentioned King Abdullah of Jordan recently referring to the “new vibe” in the region with countries asking “How can we connect with each other and work with each other.” The answer in Jordan’s case is clear. It can honor the unquestionably valid treaty and extradite Tamimi.

We’re approaching the fiftieth yahrzeit of Abraham Joshua Heschel, a luminary in the world of Jewish thought and a prominent figure in America’s struggle for human rights who passed away in 1972. Rabbi Heschel observed that "...morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”

We are bereaved parents as you are, sir. We have a burning sense that injustice in the wake of our child’s murder is winning. Years of experience tell us this is so. We ask that you address this as only the leader of the United States can and take the steps that will bring the Sbarro bomber to long-thwarted justice in Washington.

Respectfully,
Frimet and Arnold Roth
Jerusalem

You will have our sincere appreciation if you share this widely.  

Monday, July 11, 2022

11-Jul-22: President Biden is heading to Jerusalem and we're asking for a few minutes of his time

Associated Press has just reported ["Parents of slain Israeli-American girl seek Biden meeting", Josef Federman, July 10, 2022] that we - the parents of Malki Roth - have been in touch with the White House and requested a meeting with the US president during his visit to Jerusalem later this week.

JERUSALEM (AP) — The family of an Israel-American girl killed in a 2001 Palestinian suicide bombing in Jerusalem is seeking a meeting with President Joe Biden in hopes of forcing Jordan to extradite a woman convicted in the deadly attack.

The parents of Malki Roth turned to Biden on Sunday asking to meet with the president when he comes to Jerusalem this week. They want the president to put pressure on Jordan, a close American ally, to send Ahlam Tamimi to the U.S. for trial.

“We are bereaved parents as you are, sir. We have a burning sense that injustice in the wake of our child’s murder is winning,” Frimet and Arnold Roth wrote in their letter. “We ask that you address this as only the leader of the United States can.”

The Roths have been waging a campaign for the extradition of Ahlam Tamimi since she was released by Israel in a 2011 prisoner swap with the Hamas militant group. Under that deal, Tamimi was sent to her native Jordan, where she lives freely and has been a familiar face in the media. Jordanian authorities have rebuffed calls to extradite her.

On Aug. 9, 2001, a Palestinian bomber walked into a Jerusalem pizzeria and blew himself up, killing 15 people. Two American citizens, including 15-year-old Malki Roth, were among the dead.

Tamimi, who chose the target and guided the bomber there, was arrested weeks later and sentenced by Israel to 16 life sentences. Since her release, she has expressed no remorse and even boasted that she was pleased with the high death toll. In a 2017 interview with The Associated Press, she said the Palestinians have a right to resist Israel by any means, including deadly attacks.

Roth has repeatedly called on U.S. authorities to press Jordan, which has received billions of dollars in American assistance, to turn over Tamimi for trial.

The United States has charged Tamimi with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against American nationals. The charge was filed under seal in 2013 and announced by the Justice Department four years later. Her name was added to the FBI’s list of Most Wanted Terrorists.

The U.S. and Jordan signed an extradition treaty in 1995. But in 2017, Jordan’s high court blocked her extradition, reportedly claiming the treaty was never ratified.

Two years ago, the Trump administration said it was considering withholding aid to Jordan over the case, but ultimately no action was taken.

Jordan is one of the United States’ closest partners in the Arab world, seen as a force of moderation and stability in the volatile Middle East. American officials appear to be wary of sparking a diplomatic crisis with a key ally.

“Something is obviously terribly wrong with how the pursuit of America’s most wanted female fugitive is going,” the Roths wrote in their letter, sent to Biden through the U.S. Embassy.

“We want to explain this to you better in a face-to-face meeting,” they added. “We want you to look us in the eyes, Mr. President, and tell us how Jordan’s king can be a praiseworthy ally.”

Biden is scheduled to land in Israel on Wednesday before traveling to a Mideast summit in Saudi Arabia on Friday. He has no plans to be in Jordan, though Jordanian officials are expected at the summit.

There was no immediate comment from either the White House or the Jordanian Royal Hashemite Court.

Roth’s letter was sent days after the family of a Palestinian-American journalist killed while covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank lashed out at Biden over his administration’s response to her death.

Relatives of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh expressed “grief, outrage and (a) sense of betrayal” in a letter accusing the U.S. of trying to erase Israeli responsibility for her death.

A U.S. investigation concluded that Abu Akleh was likely killed by Israeli fire, but also said there was “no reason to believe” she was deliberately targeted. Israel says Abu Akleh was killed during a gun battle with Palestinian militants, and it is unclear who fired the deadly shot. The Palestinians say Israel intentionally killed her.

The White House declined to comment on the letter or the family’s request for a meeting during his visit.

The letter we wrote isn't published yet. We will post it here soon.

Friday, May 20, 2022

20-May-22: Jordan's king takes Washington again as we try to get our pursuit of justice noticed

Jordan's Washington embassy published
this proud tweet [Image Source]
Jordan's King Abdullah II spent all of last week in the United States. 

It was a visit filled with events including a solemn ceremony in which America's Catholic hierarchy paid homage to His Majesty and his wife for Jordan's "religious tolerance, harmonious interfaith, overall peace, and humanitarian efforts". 

Also: top-level meetings in the Congress involving various committees of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. And a lot of media ["Biden reaffirms Jordan's role overseeing Temple Mount", Associated Press, July 13, 2022]

Our own sources inform us that the Tamimi issue came up. But only tangentially and never once reported in the news.

From Jordan's standpoint, the peak achievement was a well-publicized face-time session in the Oval Office with America's chief executive. Here's the White House's official summing-up of the discussions between the two leaders: 

Readout of President Biden’s meeting with His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan

MAY 13, 2022 | President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. met today with His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan and reaffirmed the close and enduring nature of the friendship between the United States and Jordan.  Jordan is a critical ally and force for stability in the Middle East, and the President confirmed unwavering U.S. support for Jordan and His Majesty’s leadership.  The leaders consulted on recent events in the region and discussed urgent mechanisms to stem violence, calm rhetoric and reduce tensions in Israel and the West Bank. The President affirmed his strong support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and cited the need to preserve the historic status quo at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. The President also recognized the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s crucial role as the custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem. The leaders discussed the political and economic benefits of further regional integration in infrastructure, energy, water, and climate projects, with Jordan a critical hub for such cooperation and investment.  They agreed to remain in regular touch and further enhance the historic ties between our countries.

Not surprisingly in view of how things have gone so far with the Biden administration, Jordan's harboring of America's most wanted female fugitive was left off the agenda. 

So too Jordan's ongoing breach of the Clinton-era Extradition Treaty that since 1995 has enabled the US to request and get the arrest and handing over of Jordanian terrorists for trial and imprisonment in the US.

How well did all of this go for the Hashemite Kingdom? Spectacularly well. The post-visit video published by its embassy in Washington has the highlights along with a stirring musical sound track:

The images in the video clip of happy Congressional figures including Senators and Representatives, their advisers, senior officials, as well as key figures in the State Department and the White House make for hard viewing if, like us, you're pressing many of those same people to stand up for American principles, values and laws in order to persuade an extremely well-funded minor state in the Middle East to comply with a binding treaty that no one outside Jordan regards as invalid in any sense.

July 13, 2022: Jordan's king, the heir apparent and their Oval Office friend

As heads of state go, Abdullah is one of Washington's most frequent visitors. This source lists more than forty such visits since he ascended to the throne 22 years ago. 

In June 2020 as the COVID pandemic was raging, there was an incredible blitz of behind-closed door, off-the-record video-conference "briefings" (that's the word the Jordanians use) inside the Congress to leaders and committees. See our lengthy post "26-Jun-20: Private meetings with His Majesty and the injustice they conceal" that is accompanied by numerous photos that have somehow never gotten into the news media. 

Then in July 2021, he spent three weeks in the US including another Oval Office visit. A lower-profile visit to New York took place in September 2021 (video) including a behind-closed-doors off-the-record meeting with America's most senior Jewish community leaders. 

King Abdullah meets Senators John Thune, Mitch McConnell
and Chuck Schumer at the US Capitol May 13, 2022 [Getty Images] 
Plainly the royal team know the scene and advance his agenda with distinction.  

As we wrote here ["26-Apr-22: New legislation seeks to hold Jordan accountable for failure to send the Sbarro bomber for trial in Washington"], some Congressional efforts are underway to impose sanctions on Jordan for its failure to respect the long-standing treaty. This is being brushed off in certain quarters of the US capital ["01-May-22: A Congressional initiative sanctioning Jordan gets some Arab lobby attention"]. But in parts of the media - including some Jewish parts - it's getting modest attention.

Over at the blog of the formidable Elder of Ziyon, there's an interview published earlier today by Varda Meyers Epstein (who writes under the nom-de-web Judean Rose) in which Arnold Roth gets to do some venting about the frustrations of trying to get get justice for a murdered child. It's here: "Rep. Greg Steube Wants Congress to Push Back at Jordan on Thwarted Extradition (Judean Rose)". And for anyone wanting to acquire a sense of what we face - and the miserable public figures who are responsible for the protracted nature of our battle to see justice done - it has some insights we hope will interest you.

Here's one of the numerous well-crafted questions Varda asked me in our Elder Of Ziyon exchange, with my response.

Varda Epstein: There has to be a sense of betrayal that Israel released your daughter’s murderer from prison, especially since you threw in your lot with the Jewish State by making Aliyah. Your wife is American. Does she feel a sense of betrayal as an American citizen at the lack of will to push for extradition? How does it feel to be doubly betrayed, so to speak?

Arnold Roth: That’s a hard question to answer. Not because I don’t feel those things but because complaining of being betrayed doesn’t go down well or get you far in the court of public opinion. People have a hard enough time with their own problems.

So first about Israel. Yes, we have certainly been betrayed. That’s the right word: we had rights and they were and are being cruelly trampled and with no regard to what this does to our values as a society. Or to people like us.

In this, we are not alone. The same thing can be said by all the other families who experienced the murder or maiming of loved ones by terrorists who were sentenced to long prison terms by judges applying very respectable judicial criteria and then watching as the convicts walked triumphantly free.

That should never have happened. Those who argue differently need to review what they think they know about justice and Jewish values.

But it’s clear to us that Israel as a nation didn’t betray us. It was politicians. There’s much more I would want to say about that aspect but not now. We remain as Zionist as the day we arrived in Israel, passionate and proud to be raising our children and grandchildren in the Jewish homeland.

I’m not an American. But Malki was and so are my wife and children.

Did the US betray us? No, and this is a good moment to say that we get gratifying support from wide parts of American society. But as with Israel, the politicians – except for those who have shown a distinct sense of morality and honor – do what politicians do and hurt us in heartless ways.

From conversations with US government officials, we have the sense – never said to us in this way – that there’s more interest in seeing Ahlam Tamimi slip away and somehow disappear into the desert than in having her stand trial in Washington.

This is not a partisan political thing; we are almost, though not quite, as infuriated by how the GOP has pushed past the Jordan/Tamimi issue as we are by the Democrats. Again, this isn’t about which side of the US divide you stand on.

Much of America’s Jewish community leadership has been unhelpful and cold. Having said that, it’s an exceptionally painful subject that I don’t want to address here. At some point we will because there’s much we have learned on this that we would have preferred never to know. And people ought to know.

Here’s what I want to say about the US government. Other than at the political leadership level, the Justice Department and the FBI have always given us the sense of being with us and wanting the same result we want – Tamimi in a federal court on trial for her terrorism and the deaths she caused. We sincerely appreciate the hard work that has kept the pursuit of the Sbarro bomber going all these years.

This is relevant to something that happened some weeks ago when Frimet and I met with a significant US government figure (hereafter SUSGF). And here’s the only part of it worth raising in today’s interview. We were told ahead of time by our own sources that SUSGF was going to receive a briefing before our sit-down from well-connected officials in Washington. But in speaking with us for an hour or so, SUSGF volunteered half-way through that he/she skipped the briefing. Hence our mild hope of getting some insight into why we have been treated as pariahs for so long by the government of which our murdered child was a national was misplaced. We learned nothing. The experience was a waste of everyone’s time.

There’s no point in sharing my feelings about the governments of the past. But here’s a thought about the current administration.

Speaking in July 2021 during the first of the three official visits to the US made by King Abdullah in the past ten months, President Biden called Jordan “loyal and decent friend… We’ve been hanging out together for a long time. It’s good to have him back in the White House.”

The same day those comments were reported in the New York Times, Frimet and I wrote an open letter to President Biden. It was published prominently in the Wall Street Journal:

The president, a grieving parent himself, pledged during his inauguration speech to write “an American story of decency and dignity.” Is anything more dignified than doing justice? What’s decent about an ally shirking a treaty to appease popular bigotry?

That question is still on my mind. And again, no response has ever come from the White House.

We also wrote a private letter to Secretary of State Blinken six weeks earlier, in July 2021. He has never answered.

Naturally we hope you will read and share the whole thing.

Just ahead of the latest King Abdullah visit to Washington, we put out a media release of our own that had less impact than we hoped - but we're glad for what we did get. 

Here's how the Australian Jewish News reported it today:

Roths pressure monarch | "Ahlam Tamimi's obscene, ongoing freedom in Jordan has to be on the agenda of every meeting the Jordanian monarch is granted." | By PETER KOHN | May 20, 2022

Arnold and Frimet Roth have thrown their support behind draft legislation in the US Congress to compel Jordan to extradite Ahlam Tamimi, a terrorist involved in the bombing of a Jerusalem pizzeria that claimed the life of their Australian-born daughter Malki 21 years ago.
Click to enlarge

The Roths have publicly endorsed a bill by Congressman Greg Steube, a Florida Republican, which would commit Congress to recognising Jordan has an extradition treaty with the US. Malki, 15, was a US citizen through her American-born mother.

The couple’s endorsement coincided with a visit to Washington by Jordan’s King Abdullah II last Friday to meet with US President Joe Biden over a Jordanian bid to increase the Waqf presence on the Temple Mount after recent unrest, a move rejected by Israel, which has sovereign jurisdiction there.

Tamimi was charged with terrorist crimes by the US in 2013 and is on a list of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists. The bill proposes penalising Jordan if it does not extradite Tamimi. Said Steube, “Our US tax dollars will not continue to flow to a country harbouring a Hamas terrorist with American blood on her hands.”

Jordan maintains its extradition treaty with the US was never ratified, but the Roths cite documentation contradicting this.

Tamimi, one of the bombers of the Sbarro pizzeria in 2001 which killed 15 and injured 140, served part of a sentence in Israel but was extradited in a prisoner swap to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from Hamas. She is now a Jordanian media personality and remains unrepentant about her role in the attack.

“Ahlam Tamimi’s obscene, ongoing freedom in Jordan has to be on the agenda of every meeting the Jordanian monarch is granted,” Arnold Roth said of King Abdullah II’s US visit.

Roth told The AJN this week that attempts to engage the Australian government through Prime Minister Scott Morrison and predecessor Malcolm Turnbull have so far yielded “frustratingly disappointing outcomes”. He added, “At this point, Frimet and I have stopped knocking on their doors.”
That last paragraph is not quite what Arnold said. It's a condensed version of how he expressed it in communicating with the reporter. Space is a heavier issue in paper-based publications than online. Here's the full (but unpublished) text of Arnold's comment to the AJN: 
It's likely that most Australians, including the Jewish community where we lived before we made aliyah and where Malki was born, will not see this as an issue on which they can play a constructive role. 

But that's not the case. The decision to be decisive is of course one that has to be made by the Americans. But we think it will help if the recalcitrant Jordanians know the world is watching as they keep the fugitive bomber safe and famous in Amman. 

Australia, for good historical reasons, has warm relations with the Hashemite kingdom. That's what brought me to write an op ed in The Australian, five years ago this week in fact, calling on the then-prime minister to in effect have a quiet word with King Abdullah. Mr Turnbull's answer was a very welcome one but the follow up by others in his government was not. The initiative ended up falling by the wayside. 
For the past two years I have made similar efforts with the current Australian leadership via the prime minister's team and DFAT [Australia's foreign ministry] - with frustratingly disappointing outcomes. At this point, Frimet and I have stopped knocking on their doors.
Our pursuit of justice goes on. We hope you decide to be with us.

Monday, May 09, 2022

09-May-22: No more excuses, Jordan [Guest Post]

Soldiers of Jordan Armed Forces and U.S. military service members
salute during playing 
of the national anthems at dedication ceremony
for expanded Jordan Armed Forces Joint Training Center
October 10, 2018 [
Image Source]

[This guest post is authored by Bennett Ruda. His background is below.] 

Back in June 2020, it seemed as if the US had finally turned the corner on the issue of extraditing an Arab terrorist to the US for the murder of a US citizen.

Ahlam Tamimi is the confessed mastermind of the 2001 Sbarro massacre that killed 15 Israelis, including Malki Roth, who was also an American citizen. 

Jordan had a 1995 extradition treaty with the USwhich had already been honored by Jordan to bring Eyad Ismoil, a Jordanian citizen who assisted in the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, back to the US. 

But in the case of Tamimi, the Jordanian courts claimed the treaty had not been ratified by the parliament and refused to hand her over. This despite the fact that, in 2017, a criminal complaint was unsealed against Tamimi in the US against Tamimi for conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against US nationals. 

But in 2020, it seemed that things were going to change.

During his confirmation hearing to be US ambassador to Jordan, Henry T. Wooster told Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) that the US would apply pressure on Jordan to extradite Tamimi:

The United States has multiple options and different types of leverage to secure Ahlam Aref Ahmad al-Tamimi’s extradition. We will continue to engage Jordanian officials at all levels not only on this issue, but also on the extradition treaty more broadly. US generosity to Jordan in Foreign Military Financing as well as economic support and other assistance is carefully calibrated to protect and advance the range of U.S. interests in Jordan and in the region.

Wooster added:

If confirmed, I would explore all options to bring Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi to justice, secure her extradition and address the broader issues associated with the extradition treaty.

This was the day before Jordan's King Abdullah II was scheduled to speak to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee via video.

Whatever was said during that meeting with the Jordanian ruler, nothing was done afterward to follow up on the promise to pressure Jordan to hand over the terrorist.

* * *

It is not as if the US does not have leverage. According to the US State Department website, the US is Jordan's largest provider of assistance, providing more than $1.61 billion in 2021 alone.

After lengthy negotiations, the US and Jordan signed a new defense agreement in January 2021, allowing US forces free entry into Jordan, including both aircraft and vehicles.

Islamist member of Jordanian parliament Saleh al-Armuti
And once again, as in the case of Jordan's extradition treaty with the US, the agreement was signed and approved without going through the Jordanian parliament:

Islamist lawmaker Saleh al-Armuti decried the lack of parliamentary oversight and called on the government to cancel the accord, claiming it “violates the constitution and affects Jordan’s sovereignty.” But [Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman] Safadi pushed back, saying the agreement “in no way affects Jordan’s sovereignty, and everything it contains is subject to Jordanian law and is compatible with international law.” [emphasis added] [Source: Al-Arabiya, March 21, 2021]

There is no indication the Jordanian courts are going to try to claim this agreement is invalid.

* * *

Clearly, Jordan needs the US both militarily and economically.

At a time when the US is struggling in the Middle East in competition with both Russia and China, a recent poll finds that the US has the inside track when it comes to Jordan.

According to the poll by David Pollock of the Washington Institute:

A modestly larger proportion of Jordan’s public says good relations with the United States are either very (18%) or somewhat (34%) important. This is roughly on a par with China, as has been the case in other recent polls. But the United States has a clear advantage over either Russia or China, or any other foreign nation, in several key subcategories. A plurality (43%) pick the United States as “the country that can best help protect us against our foreign enemies.“ A smaller plurality also see the United States as the outside power that “can best promote human rights and democracy in our country” (37%). [emphasis added]

Jordan's trust in the US is in sharp contrast with the Arab states in the Gulf who see themselves as abandoned by the US -- and facing the Iranian threat alone, with the help of Israel.

On the one hand, Jordan does not perceive Iran as a threat on the level that the Gulf Arab states do. According to the poll, only 17% of Jordanians responded that good ties with Iran were "somewhat important" and they are evenly split, at 47%, as to whether "a renewed nuclear deal with Iran" is good or bad for the area.

Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Kadhimi (R), Egyptian Pres Al-Sisi (L) and King
Abdullah II of Jordan (C) attend a Tripartite Summit in Baghdad, Iraq
And just last year King Abdullah II met with Egyptian president Sisi and Iraqi Prime Minister Kadhimi to announce an agreement for transporting Iraqi oil via pipelines from Iraq to Jordan to Eqypt, where it will be taken to Europe via the Mediterranean.

But maybe Jordan is not that sanguine about Iran. It is making a point of forging ties with Iran, just as Saudi Arabia has opened up to the idea of talks with Tehran.

Writing for the BESA Center, Dr. Edy Cohen notes:

Because Iraq is a puppet state under Iran’s control, this agreement represents King Abdullah’s “coming out of the closet” with the Islamic Republic. Exporting Iraqi oil through Jordan to Europe is simply exporting oil controlled by Iran, which rules Iraq through its network of Shiite militias and controls the country’s resources.

The day after the announcement, Jordanian state media began promoting full financial cooperation with Iran.

In addition, there is talk of allowing up to one million Iranian religious tourists to visit the village of Kerak to visit the shrine of Jaffar Ibn Abu Taleb and according to the Jordanian press, Iran has proposed building an airport in Kerak.

Nevertheless, a Jordanian TV broadcast at the time warned of the dangers of allowing Iranians into the country as tourists.

Harold Rhode, a longtime former adviser on Islamic affairs in the Defense Department, agrees:

Rhode draws attention to how Tehran became the dominant force in both Lebanon and Syria. It seems to be using the same strategy to take over Jordan. In doing so, “Iran is attempting to surround Israel and Saudi Arabia further.”

At a time when the US is clearly making a point of supporting Jordan as an ally (unlike the Gulf Arabs), King Abdullah is playing with fire. 

By contrast, Jordan is anything but friendly with Israel, despite their peace treaty. In his poll, Pollock found that

Israel remains even more unpopular than Iran among Jordanians today. A mere 10 percent or so, young and old alike, have even a “somewhat” favorable opinion about the late 2020 Abraham Accords between Israel and four other Arab states (the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan). And the same very low percentage of Jordanians agree, a quarter-century after their own formal peace with Israel, that “people who want to have business or sports contact with Israelis should be allowed to do so.” 

* * *

The FBI wants Ahlam Tamimi but Jordan says no
But this is not an issue between Jordan and Israel. It is between Jordan and the US. 

While the US government has not publicly explained its reticence to enforce the treaty, the excuse offered by some is the concern that forcing the issue is too controversial, especially among those Jordanians with Palestinian roots. 

According to this theory, due to the popular support of Tamimi in Jordan, extraditing her to the US to face justice could lead to the fall of the kingdom.

The US consistently justifies aid to Jordan by claiming that Amman is a US ally in the Middle East. If that is true, then at the very least the US should be able to publicly address the issue of Tamimi instead of avoiding and ignoring it. 

In the fight against terror, the US has the opportunity to get a win. As an ally, Jordan should be willing to prove itself.

* * *

Our thanks to guest blogger Bennett Ruda who has blogged as Daled Amos since November 2003. His posts also appear on the Elder of Ziyon site as well as The Jewish Press. Bennett has been involved for some years in helping Frimet and Arnold Roth analyze and respond to government and other authorities in the context of the efforts underway to see Sbarro massacre monster Ahlam Tamimi brought to US justice.

Monday, May 02, 2022

01-May-22: A Congressional initiative sanctioning Jordan gets some Arab lobby attention

Fugitive "alleged" bomber Ahlam Tamimi has celebrity status in Jordan
New legislation introduced to the US Congress last month and centering on the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and its outrageous sheltering of a fugitive terrorist has gotten some initial attention in the Arab world. 

The background is in our post of a few days ago: "26-Apr-22: New legislation seeks to hold Jordan accountable for failure to send the Sbarro bomber for trial in Washington".

In the April 18, 2022 edition of its Washington Policy Weekly, the Arab Center Washington DC (ACW) posts this:

Rep. Steube Pressures Jordan. On April 14, Rep. Gregory Steube (R-Florida) introduced legislation to HFAC (H.R.7527) that would limit assistance to Jordan until it applies the provisions of a US-Jordanian extradition treaty that he claims was signed by the two countries in 1995. Jordan disputes the claim and has not ratified the treaty. Steube wants the Jordanian government to extradite Ahlam Tamimi to the United States for her alleged role in an attack on a pizza parlor in Israel in 2001.

But just how nonpartisan is this report and those who publish it? Two key terms - "he claims" and "her alleged role" - in this very brief ACW piece cry out for some adult attention. 

First, they're right when they say that Congressman Steube claims an extradition treaty was signed in 1995 between Jordan and the United States. But he's not alone. Who else claims it? 

At least two other parties do. One is the United States Department of State. It publishes an authoritative online list it calls Treaties in Force that runs to nearly 600 pages when printed. Look for the heading "Jordan" and the sub-heading "Law Enforcement" on page 243 and there it is: 

Extradition treaty.
Signed at Washington March 28, 1995.
Entered into force July 29, 1995.
TIAS

The second party is the late King Hussein, Jordan's ruler between 1952 and 1999. In a personally-signed document given to the Clinton administration as part of the making of that 1995 treaty, Hussein, the father of Jordan's present king, Abdullah II, forcefully delivered this solemn commitment on July 13, 1995:

…having reviewed the Extradition Treaty signed in Washington on March 28, 1995… [we] do hereby declare our agreement to and ratification of that Treaty in whole and in part. We further pledge to carry out its provisions and abide by its Articles and we, God willing, shall not allow its violation.

(We obtained the document last year via a successful Freedom of Information Act application.) 

King Hussein was true to his letter and did not allow the treaty's violation. In fact, it was first put into effect just one month after it came into force with the extradition to the US of a Jordanian fugitive who faced terrorism charges arising from the first bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City in 1993.

By the time Jordanian officials started carrying out what Hussein swore would not happen - the violation of his treaty with the Americans - he was no longer alive. 

Five years ago, with his son in charge of the Hashemite kingdom, a superior Jordanian court chimed in. Less than a week after long-sealed terror charges against Jordanian celebrity jihadist Ahlam Tamimi were made public in Washington DC by the Justice Department, Jordan's Court of Cassation handed down a brief but decisive ruling that the 1995 treaty was invalid. We documented this at the time ["20-Mar-17: The Hashemite Kingdom's courts have spoken: The murdering FBI fugitive will not be handed over"].

As for ACW using the term "her alleged role" when speaking of Ahlam Tamimi, they probably know that Tamimi has never denied the charges against her. She's made an obscene fetish of boasting publicly about what she did. Those outrageous 2001 murders and her unabashed taking of full credit are why she is an icon today in Jordan. a celebrity throughout the Arab world. 

Half a year ago, from the safety of Jordan's capital, Tamimi addressed a hall filled with young Turkish women and girls at an Islamist conference in Ankara. To their obvious delight, she did what has earned her wide fame: she reveled in the glory of being the person, a woman no less, who brought a human bomb to a Jerusalem pizzeria filled with children on a school vacation afternoon. 

Our daughter Malki, 15 and US citizen, was one of the many children slaughtered there that day. We wrote about Tamimi's triumphant speech here: "27-Feb-22: The Jordanian woman who bombed Sbarro has earned another title"

There's another strange term that ACW's weekly uses. It says  

Steube wants the Jordanian government to extradite Ahlam Tamimi to the United States...

but that's disingenuous. Steube evidently does want that but there's another party that ought to get mentioned here for its hard work for years trying to get Tamimi, who brags of the children she blew apart, extradited to Washington to face trial. 

Congressman Steube isn't alone in wanting Ahlam Tamimi
extradited from Jordan
And that's the US Department of Justice along with the FBI. They announced their intentions all the way back in 2017: "Individual Charged in Connection With 2001 Terrorist Attack in Jerusalem That Resulted in Death of Americans [Department of Justice]"

If the think-tank experts at the Qatar organization's Washington offices don't know the details of the long-delayed Tamimi extradition and prosecution, we can definitely help: "14-Mar-17: Sbarro massacre mastermind is now formally charged and her extradition is requested"

We have little familiarity with the work of ACW which describes itself [here] as independent and nonpartisan. But to us, it's a little startling to see this degree of political position-taking and spin in a self-described nonprofit with Section 501(c)3 tax-exempt status under the US Internal Revenue Code.

At the same time, it owns up to being an offshoot of a Qatari thinktank, the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS), headquartered in Doha, Qatar. The anodyne title notwithstanding, it's headed by Dr Azmi Bishara, a one-time Knesset member who fled Israel amid reports of allegations that he had passed information to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and just ahead of Israel's police who reportedly sought his help in their investigation into suspicions relating to treason and espionage

Aspects of Qatar's standing throw light on why it might want to throw shade on efforts to bring a fugitive Hamas terrorist to US justice. This extract from an important and fresh analytical piece by a respected Israeli commentator makes good sense to us:

...Recently crowned by the U.S. as a major non-NATO ally and preparing to host later this year the prestigious soccer World Cup tournament, this tiny, affluent emirate has become the primary cheerleader for Palestinian terrorism. Not only does the ruler, Sheikh Tamim [bin Hamad al-Thani], refrain from expressing any criticism of killing sprees on the streets of Israeli cities or speak out against youth turning the al-Aqsa court into a scene of violence, but he also directs his media empire led by the al-Jazeera broadcast network to pour oil onto the flames, constantly exacerbating tensions. For years Doha has been hosting and financing Hamas leadership, including many operatives involved in initiating attacks on Israel. The country has become an important link in the supply chain of terrorism... Allowed to proceed in the current mode, the combination of Qatar, Hamas and the PA is guaranteed to cause an expansion of the cycle of brutal violence inflicting pain on both Jews and Arabs. If the U.S. truly aspires to achieve a settlement of the Middle East conflict, it cannot turn a blind eye to those seeking to obstruct further progress by igniting cycles of terror and counterterror. ["A Badly Needed New Approach to Quelling the Violence", The Washington Institute - Ehud Ya'ari, April 25, 2022]  

Naturally, we will be watching to see if Rep Steube's important bill attracts less tendentious and more respectable and balanced commentary from other parts of the Arab world.