Israeli soldiers check for additional explosives at the Sbarro restaurant, bombed in a suicide attack that killed 16 people, August 9, 2001 in Jerusalem. (Courtney Kealy/Getty Images)

Jordanian MP Slams US Threat to Cut Aid Over Extradition Denial

Letter from seven US congressmen to Jordan’s ambassador demands that convicted woman released in Shalit deal face terror charges in US

The United States is bullying Jordan to serve Israeli interests, a Jordanian lawmaker charged after seven US representatives threatened to withhold aid if Jordan did not extradite to the US a woman accused of masterminding a Jerusalem restaurant bombing that killed two Americans in 2001.

“The Jordanian kingdom is under pressure, mainly economic, from more than one side, because we defend our political positions,” Yahya al-Saud, chairman of the Jordanian Parliament’s Palestine Committee, told The Media Line after the legislative body rejected the US request.

US Representative Greg Steube of Florida and six other House Republicans close to US President Donald Trump sent a letter to Jordan’s ambassador to Washington, Dina Kawar, on April 30, warning of cuts in funding if Jordanian-Palestinian Ahlam Tamimi is not handed over.

The other signatories to the letter include Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Brian Mast (R-Fla.), Scott Perry (R-Penn.), and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas).

Saud said that the United States was targeting stable developing countries in order to destabilize them to help Israel.

“The US should be biased toward international legitimacy, especially in matters that upset the feelings of Arabs and Muslims.” These are “unilateral American decisions that serve Israeli citizens,” Saud said.

Fifteen people, half of them children, were killed, and 130 people were injured, in the bombing of the Sbarro restaurant. Tamimi was serving 16 consecutive life sentences and an additional 15 years in Israel for planning the attack and driving the suicide bomber to the restaurant. She and other Palestinian prisoners were released in 2011 in exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas and held in the Gaza Strip. After her release, the West Banker moved to Jordan.

Brian O’Toole, an American analyst and nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Business and Economics Program, told The Media Line that the threat was not significant because it would apply only to assistance to the kingdom’s central government and could be waived by the US secretary of state.

The measure would not apply to all aid. “So, it may only be a fraction of the overall pot. I suspect the provision that allows this was more of a messaging bill added to the appropriations omnibus bill than a serious threat,” O’Toole said. A threat to deny some foreign aid is not the same as a threat to impose economic sanctions, he added.

Jordan and the US signed an extradition treaty on March 28, 1995. The treaty entered into force on July 29 of that year.

However, the congressional letter to Ambassador Kawar said that “just days after the Department of Justice’s March 2017 Tamimi announcement [saying that it was bringing federal terrorism charges against Tamimi, and that she had been added to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list], Jordan’s highest court ruled that a technical flaw [to the extradition treaty] existed under Jordanian constitutional law.” The letter noted that until the Tamimi case, Jordan had extradited terrorists to the US multiple times, that a technical flaw to the treaty could be repaired, and that according to a US State Department report of November 2019, “The United States regards the extradition treaty as valid.”

Mahmoud al-Kharabsheh, a Jordanian legal expert and former member of Parliament, told The Media Line that “citizens who are wanted are subject to international standards; Jordan doesn’t just hand over Jordanian citizens unless there’s an approval, certain agreements.” The US administration was thus violating diplomatic and international norms, he charged.

Furthermore, Jordan had worked to free Tamimi, he said. “Ahlam was imprisoned in Israel years ago, and Amman made huge efforts to get her released.”

Pressuring Jordan to turn over Tamimi is against the interest of American taxpayers because the move “is creating hatred against them, given its diplomatic and legal violations.” If the United States has a case against Tamimi, it should take the appropriate legal steps instead of asking Amman to give her up, he said. Jordan “would never just hand over citizens like that.”

He reiterated Saud’s claim that the United States was acting on Israel’s behalf, and against the interests of US citizens. “Why would the US make such a move [with Jordan] for Israel? It’s not permissible to use the influence of a country to serve another country at the expense of citizens.”

When reached by The Media Line, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office refused to comment on the matter.

Daniel Diker, who heads the Program to Counter Political Warfare and BDS at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told The Media Line that the United States and Jordan each act in their own national interest.

“Whoever suggests that the US is serving other [foreign] interests in calling for the extraditions of this or that citizen … can also ask the Jordanians if they are working in the American national interest by having CIA stations or security coordination with Israel … which protects Jordan and protects Israel at the same time,” said Diker, who is also a research fellow at the International Institute for Counter Terrorism.

Jordan, Israel and the United States have a shared security interest in the Middle East, “because of the rise of Islamic extremism, which is as much of a threat to His Majesty, King Abdullah II as it is to any other moderate, Western-friendly leader in the Arab world.”

According to the Middle East Policy Council, since 1952, the United States has given more than $1.7 billion in economic assistance to Jordan, with hundreds of joint projects to build Jordanian infrastructure, develop industry and agriculture, expand the educational system, and improve governmental services.

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