Teen's Israel Plea Deal Won't Impress U.S.

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Samuel Sheinbein is one hot potato latke. First, the Maryland teenager put a strain on U.S.-Israel relations by fleeing a murder charge back home and taking advantage of an obscure section of Israeli law to evade extradition. Now, the New York Times reports, he’s accepted a plea bargain with Israeli prosecutors that will see him serve a 24-year sentence that could have him out on parole in 14 years. While that might be a stiff penalty for an 18-year-old in Israel’s courts, it pales before the life-without-parole sentence he faced in Maryland. And that has enraged the family of Sheinbein’s alleged victim, 19-year-old Alfredo Enrique Tello Jr., whose burned and dismembered body was found in September 1997.

The case also has prompted outrage in local Latino communities and led Maryland congressional representatives to threaten a challenge to the $3 billion in aid the U.S. sends Israel every year. While it’s unlikely that the issue will seriously disrupt the U.S.-Israel relationship, it has spurred efforts in Israel to repeal the 1977 law that forbids the extradition of Israelis to stand trial abroad. One American for whom Sheinbein’s plea bargain may be particularly painful: Jonathan Pollard, who is serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison after his conviction in 1985 on charges of spying for Israel. Israel has been quietly pressing for Pollard’s release since last year’s Wye River talks, but the spectacle of a U.S. teen getting lenient treatment on a murder charge by escaping to Israel isn't likely to help persuade Washington to forgive an Israeli spy.