Normally, the US and Israel have no daylight on issues of extradition.But is there tension brimming beneath the surface on how to handle the prosecution of the JCC bomb threat suspect? On one hand, he apparently perpetrated all of the crimes while he was sitting in his residence in Ashkelon in Israel. Further, the suspect made bomb threats in multiple countries, the first being New Zealand, not just in the US. From that perspective, it makes sense to bring him to trial in one place, such as Israel, and not several places.There has also been no hint that Israel does not have sufficient laws to prosecute the suspect for his crimes in the US and in other countries overseas.On the other hand, the vast majority of the bomb threat scares were at Jewish institutions in the US.Further, the FBI’s assistance was key to Israel breaking the case open.
Also, on Friday, the US filed an indictment against the suspect prior to Israel having filed its own indictment and with no coordinated announcement with Israel about extradition.Was this an aggressive American move to show Israel that even if in other cases prosecuting the suspect in Israel would have been enough, that the fallout from the bomb threats was so great in the US, that the US will demand extradition so there can be public justice on its own soil? Multiple Israeli sources who would usually jump to affirm that there is no daylight between Israel and the US on the issue, were deafeningly silent on Sunday when asked for clarification – adding to the speculation that real tension may be seeping under the surface. Why would Israel simply not extradite the suspect to the US if the US is demanding it? The two biggest reasons Israel might normally deny an extradition request are not issues in this case.There is no danger in the US of a politicized justice system, and the US has agreed that if it convicts Israeli citizens in its courts, they can choose to serve their time in Israeli prisons.So it is more likely that, even if there is some tension, it is more an issue of procedure or of presentation that will ultimately be worked out, and not a substantive legal disagreement.For example, the suspect has claimed incompetence based on health and mental issues.There may be differences of opinion about cutting a plea deal with the suspect and about how severe the punishments would need to be.Israeli punishment policies in such cases do tend to be more lenient than in the US as a very general rule.Interestingly enough, while the US Justice Department has not to date publicly and explicitly called on Israel to extradite the suspect, the Anti-Defamation League has.In a statement on Friday, the ADL said that while it respects Israel’s justice system, “we think it is entirely appropriate for the alleged perpetrator to face criminal charges in the United States.” It added that “the serious disruption of lives and services happened here in the United States; the alleged perpetrator should face charges here. We urge the Israeli government to work cooperatively with the Justice Department...if the investigation warrants, to support an American extradition request.”It is unclear how much influence the ADL may have on the process, but it is a major voice.Ultimately, when the US does or does not file an extradition request, the Israeli Justice Ministry will have to go on record as to whether it accepts or opposes the request, and all will be clarified.
US-Israeli teen arrested for bomb threats to JCCs (credit: REUTERS)