Holder: U.S. urged Israel not to release killers of Americans

By Zach Silberman, JTA

WASHINGTON — An Obama administration official said the United States urged Israel not to free Palestinian terrorists in the Gilad Shalit exchange deal who killed Americans.

In a Jan. 30 letter to the Parents Forum, a group of American citizens and parents whose children were killed or wounded by Palestinian terrorists in Israel, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the United States urged Israel’s government “not to release prisoners responsible for murdering or injuring US citizens before serving their full sentences.”

Holder’s letter, first reported by the Jerusalem Post, was in response to a letter to Holder sent by the Parents Forum for Justice on Jan. 19. In their original letter, the group expressed expressed concern that Israel released Palestinian prisoners with American blood on their hands in exchange for Shalit and the United States has not prosecuted these terrorists under U.S. anti-terrorism laws. Under U.S. anti-terrorism law, the U.S. can prosecute foreign nationals who commit terrorist acts against U.S. citizens outside of the country, but would need written certification from the attorney general.

Alan Bauer, the leader of the Parents Forum, told JTA that Holder’s letter was “very professional and, I believe, sincere.”

However, he added, “The U.S. has not prosecuted anyone involved in 71 attacks with dozens and dozens of American victims.” The Department of Justice “has always told us that their efforts are confidential, so we have been shut out. I don’t think that they care about our cases — with all due and appropriate respect to Holder.”

The Zionist Organization of America sent a letter to Holder on Feb. 1 discussing the same subject and urged the Justice Department to prosecute Palestinian terrorists who murdered American citizens. ZOA has not received a response from Holder yet.

Morton Klein, president of ZOA, told JTA that ZOA “agrees with Attorney General Holder that Israel should not have released killers of Americans or Israelis.”

“Nevertheless, we are appalled that the U.S. is not fulfilling U.S. law to arrest and prosecute these killers of Americans,” Klein said. “Up to this point, Holder has only given lip service to his desire to arrest and prosecute these killers of Americans and he has not taken any steps to move in that direction.”

Holder stated in the letter to the Parents Forum that the Justice Department “remains committed to bringing appropriate charges against the perpetrators of such acts in the United States whenever such prosecution would be feasible and supported by evidence in our possession.”