Family of American girl killed in pizzeria bombing calls to meet Biden in Jerusalem

Arnold Roth holds a picture of his 15-year-old daughter, Malki.
AP/Oded Balilty
Arnold Roth holds a photo of his 15-year-old daughter Malki, who was killed in an August 2001 Palestinian suicide bombing at a Jerusalem pizzeria, at his house in Jerusalem, on Sept. 28, 2004. 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 Tamimi, who was convicted in the deadly attack. The parents of Malki Roth sent a letter to the White House on Sunday, July 10, 2022 asking to meet with Biden when he comes to Jerusalem this week. They want the president to put pressure on Jordan, a close American ally, to send Tamimi to the U.S. for trial.

The bereaved parents of a slain American Israeli girl killed in a 2001 Palestinian suicide bombing are urging President Biden to meet with them in Jerusalem when he arrives in Israel this week, pushing for a resolution on their daughter’s death. 

Frimet and Arnold Roth are calling for the president to pressure the Jordanian government to send Ahlam Tamimi to the U.S. for trial. Tamimi was the architect of the 2001 Sbarro pizzeria bombing in Jerusalem that killed 15 people, including their American daughter, Malki, and another American. 

At least 122 people were injured in the bombing, including four Americans.

In an interview with The Hill on Tuesday, Arnold Roth said the family has engaged with Biden administration officials in Jerusalem in recent months, but they have little expectation that the president will meet with them, or that the U.S. will push Jordan to fulfill Tamimi’s extradition.

Tamimi has lived in Jordan since being released from an Israeli jail in a 2011 prisoner exchange.

Jordan argues that its constitution prevents the extradition of Jordanian nationals. 

“They’re really not interested in our case in the smallest way,” Roth said of the Biden administration, speaking over Zoom from his home in Jerusalem. “The human dimension of this is just humiliating.”

A spokesperson for the National Security Council (NSC), responding to a request for comment from The Hill, said “The U.S. government continues to seek her extradition and the Government of Jordan’s assistance in bringing her to justice for her role in the heinous attack that killed 15 people, including two Americans, in 2001.”

Roth criticized the response by the NSC gave to The Associated Press as “illegitimate” and further blasted the White House for, so far, refusing to make contact with him and his family. 

“The White House decided not to respond to us, but they did respond to AP,” he said. 

Biden is traveling to Israel and Saudi Arabia between July 13 and 16. He is not expected to have a bilateral meeting with Jordanian officials, but will likely see them during the summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Jeddah towards the end of the week. 

Roth said he and his wife were motivated to write a letter to the president following a highly critical plea from the family of slain Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who have urged Biden to meet with the family and push for the release of information related to her shooting death.

Abu Akleh was allegedly killed in May by Israeli forces while covering an Israeli security raid in the Palestinian city of Jenin.

“If they end up going to the family of Abu Akleh, that’s going to be a real crisis for us,” Roth said. “At that point, from our point of view, the gloves are off. We’re still hoping to have some dialogue, but it’s not going to be with the White House. It won’t be with Mr. Biden.”

Roth’s daughter Malki was 15 when she was killed. The middle of seven children, Roth describes her as “adored” by everyone.

In 2003, Tamimi pleaded guilty in an Israeli court to multiple counts of murder connected to the suicide bomb attack, and was given 16 life sentences. In 2011, she was set free in a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas and was sent to her native Jordan where she continues to reside as a free woman. 

Roth and his wife Frimet have written on their blog “This Ongoing War” that Tamimi travels freely across Jordan and the Arab world “to address rallies and make blood-curdling pro-terror speeches” and is the presenter of her own TV program “devoted to terror, terrorists and the need to support both.” 

The Department of Justice revealed in 2017 that it had issued a warrant for Tamimi’s arrest, charging her with “conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. nationals outside the U.S., resulting in death.” 

Roth said that Tamimi’s extradition in the U.S. to appear in an American court is important for the family in their pursuit of justice. 

“We’re not out for revenge. … We want her brought in front of an American court, charged and prosecuted, if found guilty, put behind bars and for everyone who stands with her, to watch and see, this is where it ends,” Roth said. 

“Until we can get that, it really is as if we haven’t been able to bury our child and help ourselves get peace.”

Updated 2:17 p.m.

Tags Joe Biden suicide bombing Terrorism

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