NEW YORK – Just days after President Bush declared, We must make sure that countries deny sanctuary to terrorists, the Bush administration engineered a solution to the Bethlehem standoff which resulted in dozens of terrorists being given sanctuary in Gaza and Europeincluding terrorists involved in the murders of three American citizens.
Some of the terrorists have been transported to Palestinian Authority-controlled Gaza where, at best, they will be briefly detained before being set free; others will reside temporarily in several European countries. The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has promised to launch a campaign to persuade Attorney General John Ashcroft to issue indictments against the killers of Americans so they can be brought to the United States for prosecution.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said: According to U.S. law, a terrorist who murders an American citizen abroad should be brought to the United States to stand trial. It is deeply disappointing that the Bush administration has arranged for the murderers of three Americans to walk free in Gaza and Europe. We will work to persuade Attorney General Ashcroft to indict them, and to persuade the European countries that harbor them to surrender them to the United States for prosecution.
The ZOA president added: President Bush has turned his back on his declared principles for fighting terrorism. Instead of asking countries to hand over terrorists for prosecution, he has actually asked them to give sanctuary to terrorists.
Two of the terrorists from the Bethlehem standoff are Ibrahim Abyat and Ismail Hamdan, members of Yasir Arafats Fatah, who were involved in the murder of U.S. citizens Avi Boaz and Sarah Blaustein.
Boaz, 72, a Brooklyn native, was a building contractor who had close relations with many Palestinian Arabs and traveled to Bethlehem on the morning of January 15, 2002 for business purposes. As he entered the city, he was stopped at a Palestinian Authority roadblock, where he showed the PA policemen his U.S. passport. Fatah terrorists at the scene then abducted Boaz, while the PA police watched without intervening. The Fatah kidnappers took Boaz to nearby Beit Sahur, and murdered him there.
Mrs. Blaustein, 53, of Lawrence (Long Island), NY, was murdered by Abyat in a drive-by shooting near Efrat on May 29, 2001.
A third terrorist from the Bethlehem standoff, Mahmoud Hamdan, took part in the brutal stoning and stabbing death of two 13 year-old boys, Koby Mandell (of Silver Spring, MD) and Yosef Ishran, in a cave near Tekoah on May 9, 2001.
Members of Congress recently introduced the Koby Mandell Act, which would create a special office within the Justice Department to address exactly the points mentioned in AIPACs agenda, including: to gather evidence against Palestinian Arab killers of Americans; arrange to bring the terrorists to the U.S. for trial; initiate negotiations with the Palestinian Authority for financial compensation for victims families; and maintain a liaison with the families to update them on efforts to capture the killers.
The Koby Mandell Act, known as S.1377 in the Senate and H.R.2098 has been publicly endorsed by AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. At its annual policy conference, in Washington last month, AIPAC included in its 2002 Action Agenda a clause pledging that during the coming year, AIPAC will be Supporting Congressional efforts to facilitate the capture of Palestinian Arab terrorists suspected of harming American citizens and their transfer to the United States for prosecution; to ensure that Palestinian Arab killers of Americans are pursued just as vigorously as other terrorists who have murdered Americans overseas, including the publicizing of the names and photographs of the suspects; and to secure financial compensation for victims of Palestinian Arab terrorism.
The Koby Mandell Act is being sponsored in the U.S.Senate by Senators Gordon Smith (R-OR), Rick Santorum (R-PA), and Sam Brownback (R-KS). In the House of Representatives, has been introduced by Reps. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) and Jim Saxton (R-NJ), and co-sponsored by Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Steve LaTourette (R-OH), Connie Morella (R-MD), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Steve Rothman (D-NJ), Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Ken Bentsen (D-TX), Eric Cantor (R-VA), Joseph Hoeffel (D-PA), and Chris Smith (R-NJ).