An Israeli newspaper is reporting that the U.S. blocked Israel’s participation in a meeting of the State Department’s flagship counterterrorism project, the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF). Considering Israel’s vast experience in fighting terror as a result of its frequent targeting by Palestinian terrorism, it’s surprising that Israel would be excluded from the meeting which took place on Friday in Istanbul. Globes reports:
A pro-Israeli source in Washington told "Globes" that Israel was excluded from the meeting because of fierce objections by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Israel tried hard to obtain an invitation to the meeting, and its exclusion, despite the tight US-Israeli intelligence ties, has greatly disappointed officials in Jerusalem.
The GCTF, one of the pillars of President Barack Obama's antiterrorism campaign, was established in September 2011. The White House calls the forum as a wise use of force against terrorism, and chose Turkey as the forum's joint chair, together with the US.
But Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor tells The Blaze that, “We never planned to go and it wasn’t on the schedule.” He would not say if any Israeli officials had asked to attend, but pointed out that Israeli and U.S. officials held “our own counterterrorism dialogue” in Jerusalem last week, just days before the Istanbul meeting.
An Israeli official who asked not to be named told The Blaze Israel is confident it will be included in the forum later on and will participate in working groups, and emphasized the “excellent dialogue with the U.S. on counterterrorism.” He lays blame for Israel’s exclusion on Turkey:
“The Turks have been behaving with irrational rage when it comes to Israel.”
That official says Israel is not the only target of this so-called “irrational” behavior, and points to Turkey’s threat to boycott contact with the European Union presidency when Cyprus takes over the rotating the position on July 1.
According to its website, the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s aim is to help countries at the forefront in the fight against terrorism to share their “experiences, expertise, strategies…”
The GCTF's overarching and long-term goal is to reduce the vulnerability of people everywhere to terrorism by effectively preventing, combating, and prosecuting terrorist acts and countering incitement and recruitment to terrorism.
The organization has 30 members, of which 10 are Muslim countries including Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
GOP sources tell Globes, “since one third of the GCTF's members are Muslim countries, the Obama administration is trying to deepen ties with the Muslim world at Israel's expense. “
At last Wednesday’s State Department briefing, a reporter asked Spokesman Mark Toner:
…do you know why the Israelis weren’t invited to this conference on counterterrorism? The U.S. is the co-chair of it. Israel has in the past expressed an interest. I mean, I realize it’s only a year old, but they wanted to be in it. It seems to be germane to the issues that they face in the world, and they also happen to be a counterterrorism partner of the U.S. Do you have any explanation as to why they – their attempt to get in and participate was rejected?
MR. TONER: I’m not – it’s not clear to me that it was rejected, but certainly, as you mentioned in your question, they are a counterterrorism partner with the United States and with many of the countries in this group. So that’s certainly something we would look upon favorably, but I’m not aware that any formal request has been made.
Toner said he’d look into the question, and later the State Department spokesman’s office released this follow-up guidance, which rephrased the reporter’s question and therefore didn’t directly respond to it:
Question: Has Israel requested membership to the Global Counterterrorism Forum? Has the United States, as a co-host of the forum, sought to get Israel involved?
Answer: Our idea with the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) was to bring together a limited number of traditional donors, front line states, and emerging powers develop a more robust, yet representative, counterterrorism capacity-building platform. A number of our close partners with considerable experience countering and preventing terrorism are not included among the GCTF’s founding members.
We have discussed the GCTF and ways to involve Israel in its activities on a number of occasions, and are committed to making this happen.
Globes quotes pro-Israel sources in Washington who characterize the Obama administration as ignoring the fact that Turkey – which co-chairs the GCTF - opposes calling Hamas a terrorist group, even though Hamas continues to be on the State Department’s list of terror organizations.
Israeli-Turkish relations continue to be strained over the attempt in 2010 by the pro-Palestinian Gaza flotilla to break Israel’s sea blockade of Gaza. Nine Turkish nationals were killed in a fight with Israeli soldiers who had boarded their boat, the Mavi Marmara.
Just last month, Israel was excluded from the NATO summit in Chicago, while Turkey and Pakistan attended.