The comedy has been going on for several years. Someone is nominated to be the next Ambassador to Jordan. The nominee testifies before the Senate, and is asked whether he, or she, would be prepared to cut aid to Jordan if Amman continues to refuse to extradite Ahlam al-Tamimi, the mastermind of the Sbarro Pizzeria bombing, in which many Israelis, including eight children, and two Americans, were killed. Words vaguely encouraging are offered, by the nominee, but then clouded over with mention of just how “complicated” and “multifaceted” our relations with Jordan, a “key ally,” are, so that we are left with the understanding that the nominee, if confirmed, will certainly ask Jordan to please extradite Ahlam al-Tamimi, but with the clear understanding that if Jordan turns us down, there will be no consequences for the Hashemite Kingdom.
Jordan is the third largest recipient of American aid, after Israel and Egypt. That aid has recently averaged about $1.4 billion a year. We are told repeatedly that Jordan is a “close American ally,” but no one ever asks exactly why Jordan has earned that title. Has the government of Jordan put a stop to the antisemitic conspiracy theorizing in its media? Does Jordan contribute intelligence information, as Israel does, to the CIA? Have the Jordanians helped to slow down Iran’s nuclear project? Has Jordan in the past helped effectively to suppress the Islamic State, or to fight Al Qaeda? A “close American ally” does not pocket $1.3, or $1.4, or $1.5 billion a year and then refuse a simple request: hand over to us someone who was responsible for a terror attack in which two Americans were murdered, so that person can be put on trial.
Now Senator Cruz has asked the latest nominee to be our ambassador in Amman, Yael Lempert, to assure Americans that she would be willing to use the threat of a cut in aid to get Jordan’s cooperation on extraditing Ahlam al-Tamimi. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the depressing saga of Al-Tamimi, whom the Americans first requested be extradited in 2017 under the terms of a 1995 treaty with Jordan. Shortly thereafter, Jordan’s Court of Cassation ruled that the extradition treaty was invalid. The Americans disagree. And that is where things have stood ever since: five years of attempts by the American government to have Al-Tamimi extradited, five years of refusals by Jordan to do so, and meanwhile, maddeningly, Jordan keeps being given those enormous amounts of American aid, without any hint that such aid will be slashed unless al-Tamimi is handed over to American authorities.
Ahlam al-Tamimi is a particularly vicious terrorist. She scoped out sites for an attack in Jerusalem, and chose the Sbarro Pizzeria because she knew that it was a favorite of families with children. For her part in planning the attack, and for driving the suicide bomber to the site, Ahlam Tamimi was — and remains — a heroine of the “Palestinian” cause. The suicide bomber detonated himself at the moment when the pizzeria was full. Fifteen people were murdered, including 8 children, and 130 were wounded, many of them very seriously. One survives in a permanent vegetative state. Two of those killed were Americans.
Ahlam Tamimi was eventually found, brought to trial and — since Israel doesn’t have capital punishment, even for the worst Muslim Arab mass-murderers — she was sentenced to 16 consecutive life terms. But she was then freed as part of that appalling exchange in 2011, whereby 1027 “Palestinian” prisoners were released in order to get back one Israeli, Gilad Shalit, a most regrettable act.
Tamimi’s orchestration of the Sbarro pizzeria suicide bombing in Jerusalem and subsequent conviction in Israel quickly brought her accolades and rewards from fellow Arabs. Six weeks after the attack, Al Najah University in the West Bank town of Nablus glorified the perpetrators with a recreated Sbarro featuring bloody plastic body parts and partially-chewed pizza crusts. The governing Palestinian Authority (PA) also began payments to the terrorists and/or their families that totaled over $910,000 by 2019 under the infamous pay-for-slay program. The PA even considered in 2008 awarding Tamimi the Al Quds Mark of Honor.
In Jordan, Ahlam Tamimi has turned her journalism background (following her college studies before her imprisonment, she completed in 2018 a journalism graduate degree at Amman’s private Middle East University) into stardom. Between February 2012 and September 2016, she hosted her own television program, Nassem al-Ahrar (“Breezes of the Free”), on Al Quds TV, one of Hamas’ two global satellite channels. Produced and distributed from an Amman studio, this program focused on incarcerated terrorists in Israel, as she herself had been. With these broadcasts, particularly during Israel’s 2014 Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza, Tamimi became central to the Arabs’ jihadist war against the hated Jews.
Tamimi has also taken her show on the road. She has traveled widely among the Arab states, addressing enthusiastic audiences with a message blending incitement and antisemitism. Her itinerary has included Algeria, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Tunisia, and Yemen.
In 2014, Tamimi won praise as a “success model” at the Arabic website of the Jordanian Media Institute (JMI). Tamimi’s laudatory biography, posted online, noted that she had attended “Martyr’s University,” or Ramallah’s Birzeit University, the alma mater of many terrorists. Jordanian television showed a televised “‘This is Your Life’-like tribute” to Tamimi and her fellow terrorist-in-love husband, her cousin Nizar, who also escaped an Israeli life sentence via the 2011 prisoner exchange. The October 23, 2018 edition of Caravan, a weekly show on Jordan’s most popular television channel, the privately-owned Ro’ya TV, focused on these “special guests” and “heroes.” In Jordan, she remains a star in the celebrity firmament.
Ahlam Al-Tamimi has continued to travel, to broadcast, to be lionized in Jordan and in many other Arab lands, for her part in the Sbarro Pizzeria attack. It is time to close down this intolerable spectacle, and have her extradited to the U.S., where 22 years after that attack, she will at long last be tried specifically for her role in the murder of several Americans. If the Jordanians won’t listen to reason or to any still small voice of decency (how would they react if another country not only protected, but lionized the Al-Qaeda terrorists who in 2005 bombed three hotels in Amman?), then another method must be tried: not just decreasing aid, but slashing it to the bone, or even eliminating altogether, America’s generous aid package to Jordan, that many believe ought to have ended long ago.
Senator Cruz was just grilling Lempert on whether, if confirmed as ambassador to Jordan, she would recommend cutting aid to that country in order to have the Jordanians honor their duty to extradite Ahlam al-Tamimi. He has again, most commendably, put the issue squarely before the public. Let Biden or Blinken or Sullivan explain to the American people just why they are so reluctant to threaten cuts in aid to Jordan, and why they are allowing a country so dependent on our aid to continue to ignore our requests to extradite a murderer of Americans. Is this murderous woman’s “freedom” in Jordan really worth $1.4 billion a year to the Jordanians? Let’s give King Abdullah and his palace courtiers a chance to make their ghastly calculations.