WASHINGTON (Jan. 25)
It has been almost two years since Matthew Eisenfeld and Sara Duker boarded Jerusalem’s bus No. 18 on the last day of their lives.
For the parents of the two Americans killed in that February 1996 terrorist bombing attack, the pain endures.
“Our families hoped and prayed that one day we would dance at their wedding,” Matthew’s father, Leonard, recalled last week. “We instead cried at their funeral and watched as they were lowered into their graves side by side.”
Matthew was 25; his fiancee, Sara, 23.
Last week, their parents joined with a handful of others whose children were slain by terrorists in Israel to plead for the extradition of their killers.
Accompanied by several members of Congress at a Capitol Hill news conference arranged by the Zionist Organization of America, they urged the Clinton administration to demand that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat extradite the suspected perpetrators to stand trial in the United States.
“We’re asking for what’s right and what’s just and we have an expectation that we’ll be listened to,” said Arline Duker, speaking on the eve of Clinton’s meeting with Arafat at the White House.
Nine Americans have been murdered by terrorists in Israel since the Oslo peace process was launched in 1993.
Subsequent agreements between Israel and the Palestinians require the Palestinian Authority to transfer accused terrorists to Israel for prosecution, but Arafat has not complied.
Some of the terrorists identified by the Israeli government are currently being held under Palestinian custody, some continue to live free under Palestinian control, while the whereabouts of others remain unknown.
The parents of the slain Americans are calling for the extradition of the perpetrators in accordance with U.S. anti-terrorism legislation, which permits the United States to prosecute those who murder American citizens abroad.
Meanwhile, more than 20 U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright last week urging the administration to “make all diplomatic and legal efforts to guarantee that the terrorists guilty of killing and maiming Americans are brought to justice.”
“There’s a simple message here,” said Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.), who sits on the House International Relations Committee.
“If you murder innocent Americans and tear innocent families apart, the United States of America will never forget and will demand justice until justice is realized.”
Jewish leaders, for their part, recently raised the issue in a meeting with President Clinton, and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said it is preparing to send a follow-up letter to Clinton about the United States’ responsibility on the issue.
The ZOA has placed full-page ads in newspapers and magazines urging the administration to take action.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, sought during his visit here last week to bring attention to the Palestinian Authority’s failure to comply with 34 requests to transfer terrorists suspected of killing Israelis.
He brought with him Judith Shahor, whose 19-year-old son Uri was killed while hiking in the West Bank in 1995, and Sigal Megiddish, whose brother, also named Uri, was murdered in the Gaza Strip in 1993.
Netanyahu said some of their killers are “sipping cafe under the Jordan Valley sun, completely free,” while others “are serving in the Palestinian police, giving interviews, boasting about their act.”
Palestinian officials dismissed Netanyahu’s comments as “a pack of lies.” They said they took the CIA chief in Tel Aviv to visit a West Bank prison last week where Megiddish’s killers are being held.
More than 240 people have died in terrorist attacks in Israel since former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Arafat shook hands on the White House lawn in September 1993.
David Boim, a 17-year-old New York native with dual American-Israeli citizenship, was victim 215.
His mother, Joyce, remembered her son this way:
“He was a wonderful boy, always with a big smile, always with a kind word for everybody.
“He had a terrific sense of humor that kept his friends rolling, as they showed me when I went to see his dorm room” after he died.
“They showed me the floor. I said, `What are you showing me the floor for?’ They said, `This is where we rolled for hours, laughing at the jokes that David entertained us with.”
Two terrorists riddled David with bullets in a drive-by shooting while he was waiting for a bus near the West Bank town of Beit El in May 1996.
One of the terrorists, Imjad Hinawi, was detained by the Palestinian police in early 1997, but has been missing since he was released on a weekend holiday leave.
The other terrorist sought in the shooting, Khalil Sharif, blew himself up in last September’s triple-suicide bombing in Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall.
That attack claimed the life of another American, 14-year-old Yael Botwin.
Joyce Boim was walking on Ben Yehuda Street just minutes before the three suicide bombers transformed the tourist area into a grisly scene of blood and carnage.
“I could have been a victim of the same terrorist that killed my son,” she said.
The idea that their children’s killers may strike again compounds these parents’ grief.
“We must seek justice,” Boim said, adding that she speaks not only for herself, but for “the many families and parents who cannot physically and mentally cry out and do what we are doing.”
“We must demand extradition. These murderers cannot continue to walk free.”