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Israel should extradite fugitive from U.S. for trial

Israel says it will "review" its decision to try an American teenager wanted in Maryland as the principal suspect in a grisly dismemberment killing.

Israel should go even further and do what is right: Extradite 17-year-old fugitive Samuel Sheinbein to the United States to stand trial.Invoking an assortment of technicalities and legalisms, the Israeli authorities argue that Sheinbein, a U.S. citizen who has lived here all his life, is really an Israeli citizen because his father, who left Israel for the United States in 1950 at the age of 6, had automatic Israeli citizenship.

Israeli law gives its citizens the right to be tried in Israel, so, the preliminary ruling goes, Sheinbein stays even though his sole reason for being there is to avoid prosecution here.

Although there is no dispute that Israel would provide a fair trial, Israeli law is more forgiving to pleas of diminished capacity and can be more lenient in sentencing and parole. And, says Sheinbein's Israeli lawyer Nitzana Leitner, the prisons are better.

She has had the lawyerly arrogance to suggest that Sheinbein might return for trial if Maryland prosecutors offer a better plea bargain deal than their Israeli counterparts.

Aside from the dubious claim to citizenship, the facts are simple: the crime was committed in Maryland, not Israel; the witnesses are there; the evidence is there; and so is the family of the victim, a 19-year-old whose dismembered and burned body was found.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Livingston, R-La., is so outraged by the refusal to extradite Sheinbein that he is threatening to shelve $50 million in aid to Israel now before his committee and "review" $3 billion in other aid.

What Livingston proposes to do may not be right; it may not be fair; but like Israel's fine-print refusal to extradite Sheinbein, it is legal.