US considers withholding aid to Jordan to force extradition

FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2019, file photo, Jordan's King Abdullah II addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly. The Trump administration is considering withholding aid to one of its closest Arab partners, Jordan, in a bid to secure the extradition of a woman convicted in Israel of a 2001 bombing that killed 15 people, including two American citizens. The extradition issue is likely to be raised this week when King Abdullah II speaks to several congressional committees to voice his opposition to Israels plans to annex portions of the West Bank. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is considering withholding aid to one of its closest Arab partners, Jordan, in a bid to secure the extradition of a woman convicted in Israel of a 2001 bombing that killed 15 people, including two American citizens.

The administration says it's weighing “all options” to press Jordan to extradite Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi, who is wanted by the U.S. on a charge of 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.

The extradition issue is likely to be raised this week when Jordan’s King Abdullah II speaks to several congressional committees to voice his opposition to Israel’s plans to annex portions of the West Bank.

Al-Tamimi is on the FBI’s list of “most wanted terrorists” for her role in the suicide bombing at a crowded Jerusalem pizzeria. It was one of the deadliest attacks during the second Palestinian uprising.

She has lived freely in Jordan since Israel released her in a 2011 prisoner swap with the militant group Hamas. Jordanian authorities have rebuffed U.S. requests to turn her over, despite an extradition treaty. Jordan has a large Palestinian population, and it's unclear if a threat over aid would cause it to rethink its position.

Ahead of King Abdullah’s video congressional appearances, scheduled for Wednesday with the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees, the State Department said that billions of dollars of foreign assistance to Jordan could be used as leverage to get Jordanian authorities to extradite Al-Tamimi.

The threat came in written answers submitted by the administration’s nominee to be the next U.S. ambassador to Jordan, Henry Wooster, to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in response to questions posed by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

“The United States has multiple options and different types of leverage to secure Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi’s extradition,” Wooster wrote. “We will continue to engage Jordanian officials at all levels not only on this issue, but also on the extradition treaty more broadly. U.S. 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.”