The US blocked Israel’s participation in the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s (GCTF) first meeting in Istanbul on Friday, even though Israel has one of the most extensive experiences in counterterrorism in the world. 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.
29 countries are participating in the GCTF, ten of which are Arab and/or Muslim countries: Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. Other members include China, Russia, India, and Western European countries.
“The GCTF sought from the outset to bridge old and deep divides in the international community between Western donor nations and Muslim majority nations. And it has, I think, done that quite effectively,” said a top US official at the press briefing before the opening session.
Republican politicians claim that, 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.
In response to numerous questions about Israel’s exclusion from the GCTF session in Istanbul raised at a press conference yesterday, the State Department opted to focus on the questions: 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?
A State Department spokesman replied, “Our idea with the 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.”
Pro-Israeli sources say that the Obama administration decided to ignore the fact that Turkey, which has a key role in the GCTF, opposes calling Hamas a terrorist organization, even though Hamas is included on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. In an interview with the US media last May, Erdogan said that he did not consider Hamas a terrorist organization, but as a resistance movement trying to protect its country from occupation. He said that Hamas won elections in the Gaza Strip in 2006, and that, therefore, calling it a terrorist organization was an insult to the Palestinian people.
For its part, Turkey calls the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is seeking to establish a Kurdish state in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq, as a terrorist organization, and the US supports this position.