Yael Lempert, the Obama Administration’s official who struck the 10-year, $38 billion military aid package with the Netanyahu government in late 2016, is now the Biden administration’s nominee for US Ambassador to Jordan, and on Thursday she faced the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) questioned the nominee about Jordan’s continued refusal to extradite to the US the female terrorist Ahlam Tamimi, who was convicted of assisting the Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing in Jerusalem, in 2001, which caused 145 casualties, including 15 fatalities, half of them children.
Ahlam Tamimi and Al-Masri, the human bomb whose head was blown off when he detonated the explosives-filled guitar case on his back, came by taxi and bus via the Kalandia Crossing. Tamimi carried the guitar case for him through the crossing as part of the deception. When they reached Sha’ar Schechem, they walked together to the entrance to the Sbarro restaurant, where, by her own account, she instructed him on what to and then fled.
She then presented the evening news on a now defunct Ramallah TV station, called Al-Istaqlal. There are video and photos of her presenting the evening news after the attack.
She was sentenced by an Israeli military tribunal to 16 terms life imprisonment but was released in 2011 as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange.
Just weeks after her release she began to appear regularly in Jordanian media. She began presenting her own weekly TV show called “Breezes of the Free” (“نسيم الأحرار”), which was produced and shown worldwide weekly from Jordan by Hamas for nearly five years, starting February 2012. Just to be clear, nothing appears in any Jordanian media that is not approved by the Royal Hashemite Court.
Of all the dangerous, anti-Israel Obama hands in the Biden administration, Lempert’s only equal is Rob Malley, Biden’s special envoy to the Iran nukes negotiations. Both are Jewish, naturally, and both are in an unprecedented position to poison the relationship between Israel and the US.
In her committee confirmation hearing, Lempert pointed out Jordan’s “indispensable role” in deescalating tensions between Israel and the PA Arabs. Also, as Haaretz put it on Thursday, “As ambassador, Lempert would play a central role in the Biden administration’s ongoing significant efforts in reestablishing ties with Jordan following years of tumult under the Trump administration.”
The “tumult” stemmed from President Donald Trump’s decision to implement the Clinton Administration’s law that called to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, following which Trump moved the US embassy to Jerusalem. Yes, that had a tumultuous reception over in Amman. But now things will get better.
Back to Senator Cruz’s effort to challenge Lempert’s nomination: on July 15, 2013, the Obama Justice Department filed criminal charges in the District of Columbia against Tamimi for conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against US nationals outside the US, resulting in death. The Sbarro attack dead included 13 Israelis, two Americans: Malki Roth and Shoshana Judith Greenbaum, and one Brazilian, all of them civilians. There were also 130 injured, including Chana Nachenberg, who remains hospitalized in a permanent vegetative state.
Jordanian courts ruled that Tamimi should not be extradited, since Jordan’s extradition treaty with the US has not been ratified by the Jordanian parliament. In March 2021, Interpol dropped its arrest warrant for Tamimi. There still is a $5 million reward for Tamimi’s capture, so if you’re athletic and can drive fast cars across international borders, by all means, go for it. The US administration isn’t going to.
Or, as Lempert put it in Diplomatese, first stressing what “a difficult and frustrating issue this has been for the Congress, for those of us in the executive branch, but most of all for the families of the American citizen victims of Ahlam Tamimi’s horrific crimes — Malki Roth and Shoshana Judith Greenbaum.”
“If confirmed, I will do everything in my power to ensure that Ahlam Tamimi faces justice in the United States for horrific crimes,” she promised. But when pressed by Cruz who asked if continued Jordanian refusal to extradite the terrorist would lead to withholding military and economic assistance from Jordan, she answered, “This would need to be weighed very carefully against the range of issues and priorities that we have with the Jordanians before considering such a step, which I think would be profound. I would want, if confirmed, to get out there and try and work on this and see if we can make progress in other ways.”
Or, in English, nothing will be done, folks.
When the government Biden liked was still in charge, Lempert led US efforts to build upon the Negev Summit that included Israel, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates. The Negev Forum was an attempt to normalize relations with Israel through security, water, food, energy, health, education, and tourism. Jordan didn’t show up even for the Lapid government, because the PA people hadn’t been invited. But the PA people view any attempt at normalization with Israel as a hostile act against them, so Jordan, whose entire water supply depends on Israel, chose not to come.
What does Lempert think about this failure to get Jordan to budge even a tiny bit? “There’s an empty seat at the table of the Negev Forum where Jordan should be,” she told the Senate committee. “It would really behoove Jordan to be there. It makes all kinds of sense for Jordan to be there. Jordan is the second Arab country that signed a peace treaty with Israel. And I will continue to encourage them to do so just as I have in my current position.”
Also: Jordan is 80% Palestinian, and Israel has been protecting its kings from assassination attempts before and after the peace treaty. So, don’t expect any miracles from the new US ambassador.
Lempert mentioned one real reason for hope: in late January it was reported that in a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah, the two leaders pledged to speed up implementation of the water for electricity deal, funded by the UAE. For one thing, Jordan agreed not to condition the deal on Israel’s moving half a million settlers out of Judea and Samaria.
“The deal, which was signed by the Bennett government in November 2021, would have Jordan build huge solar fields to supply electricity to Israel, and in exchange, Israel will build a large desalination plant on the Mediterranean dedicated to supplying water to Jordan, with UAE financing.”
By the way, I’ve been asking this question for at least a decade: Israel’s Arava desert is just as big and just as sunny as Jordan’s desert. Why won’t Israel build its own huge solar fields there? Must Israel first use up all the natural gas it’s being sold at special rates by US companies? Because, you know, once the solar panels are paid for, the rest is free energy forever.
I’m just saying.