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WEISS: Obama excludes Israel from counterterrorism group

Throwing an ally under the bus

- - Thursday, September 20, 2012

Recently, a high-level conference on the Victims of Terrorism was held in Madrid. The sponsoring organization, the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) is the brainchild of the Obama administration and one of its "signature initiatives" on counterterrorism. Its purported purpose is to increase global cooperation in fighting terrorism worldwide. Yet, despite Israel's interest in joining the alliance, the GCTF, under the leadership of the Obama administration, has excluded Israel from all participation.

The GCTF is intended to "provide a multilateral platform to identify civilian counterterrorism needs, mobilize the necessary expertise and resources to address such needs, and to enhance global cooperation," according to its website. Its mission is to help countries defend themselves against threats within their borders and to deny terrorist groups new recruits. However, the forum is applying none of this to Israel, America's closest friend and ally in the fight against terrorism.

Israel fought hard to become involved with the GCTF. Nevertheless, it was precluded from joining as a founding member, and it has been denied the opportunity to attend or participate in any of its three conferences held thus far. Obama administration officials even have omitted Israel from mention during conference speeches when listing countries affected by terrorism. It's as though Israel is nonexistent.

Israel is one of the largest targets of international terrorism. Per capita, it has suffered the third-highest number of fatalities in the world. Israel is also considered expert in coping with terrorist attacks. Accordingly, Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, and Sen. Mark Kirk, Illinois Republican, sent Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton a letter expressing concern about Israel's exclusion from the GCTF. They pointed out that Israel could benefit from and contribute to the alliance if included. Their request was ignored.

A glimpse into the forum's membership might provide insight into the reason for its rejection of Israel.

The GCTF is co-chaired by the United States and Turkey. It has 29 members, 11 of them also members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Egypt.

Reports indicate that the United States excluded Israel in capitulation to Turkey, which also recently pushed to keep Israel out of NATO. Apparently, the Obama administration has decided to turn a blind eye to the fact that Turkey supports Hamas, a state-designated terrorist organization that seeks to wipe Israel off the map.

Indeed, the OIC countries are united in their hatred of Israel and share a common vision of a world where Israel does not exist. In fact, all of the countries subscribe to the 1999 OIC Convention on Combating International Terrorism. This document states that armed struggle against "foreign occupation, aggression, colonialism and hegemony, aimed at liberation and self-determination shall not be considered a terrorist crime." The OIC's definition of terrorism is aimed at exempting terrorism against Israel and recasting it as "resistance" or "liberation." Not surprisingly, all member countries support both Hamas and Hezbollah.

The OIC countries are also the reason the United Nations has been unsuccessful in achieving an anti-terrorism convention. The 56 OIC member countries refuse to define terrorism in any way that provides protection to Israel, instead legitimizing terrorism against it. Seemingly in deference to the stance of the OIC countries, the GCTF has refrained from defining the terrorism it seeks to combat.

Numerous reporters have pressed the Obama administration, demanding to know why Israel has been shut out of participation with the GCTF. In response, the administration issued a statement claiming that it only brought a limited number of frontline states and emerging powers to develop a "representative" counterterrorism capacity-building platform, and that a number of "close partners with considerable experience" were not included in its founding membership. The administration asserts that it has discussed with its membership a number of ways to allow Israel to participate in the forum's activities and is "committed to making this happen." To date, this commitment has not manifested in any visible results.

Forging alliances with the enemies of freedom whose official policies seek the obliteration of Israel further marginalizes Israel, weakens America's relationship with Israel and sends a message to the world that terrorism against Israel is unworthy of attention -- perhaps even acceptable.

By working hand-in-glove with the OIC countries and denying the inclusion of the only country in the Middle East that fights for human rights, religious freedom and gender equality, the GCTF has validated the regimes that give rise to the ideology that produces the terrorism it aims to prevent and claims to abhor. Such action does a disservice to victims of Islamic terrorism everywhere, including those in OIC countries.

Snubbing Israel in order to make friends with the Muslim world is not only a mistake, it is dangerous. By capitulating to Islamist demands to exclude Israel in global counterterrorism efforts, refusing to define terrorist conduct, and precluding the use of Israel's expertise in defeating it, the Obama administration puts freedom at risk worldwide.

The relationships formed through the GCTF only serve to diminish America's national security and its position as leader of the free world, as this administration ever confuses friend with foe.

Deborah Weiss is a lawyer and co-author of "Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Terrorist Network" (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2011).