JERUSALEM — 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.
“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.