Despite pleas from Senators on Capitol Hill, the Obama administration excluded Israel from a new counterterrorism forum and neglected to mention its long and deadly struggle with terrorism during remarks presented yesterday in Spain.
Maria Otero, the State Department’s Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, delivered a speech entitled "Victims of Terrorism" before 29 members of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, an coalition of countries—not including Israel—that collectively combat terror.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sparked a controversy in June when she announced the coalition’s formation and neglected to include Israel on a list of countries that perpetually struggle with terror attacks. It is widely believed that Israel was overlooked as a member due to the opposition of Turkey, which has increasingly been at odds with the Jewish state.
Congressional sources and regional experts say that the Obama administration is intentionally downplaying Israel’s struggle with terrorism in order to appease and gain the cooperation of Arab nations that are often hostile to the Jewish state.
A congressional source told the Free Beacon Tuesday that the State Department confirmed to inquiring members of Congress that Israel was in fact excluded from the conference.
"The State Department told us that only the 29 original member countries were involved—and that means no Israel," said the source.
During yesterday’s gathering, Israel was also excluded again from a list of nations recognized by the U.S. for their efforts to deal with terrorism.
"Last September at the official launch of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, I had the privilege to introduce the premiere of a film ‘Hear their Voices’, which tells the stories of eleven survivors of terrorist attacks from Pakistan, Jordan, Northern Ireland, Uganda, Turkey, Indonesia, India, Spain, Columbia, and the United States," Otero said before the gathering of nations.
"The film, which was produced by the Global Survivors Network, is a powerful plea for audiences around the world, especially those sympathetic to the grievances expressed by extremists, to recognize the human cost of terrorism and I am delighted that our Spanish hosts are planning on showing this film here later this afternoon," she added.
Experts say the omission of Israel was intentional.
"When the administration promised to include Israel in the counterterrorism forum that the United States founded—after Jerusalem's inexplicable exclusion from the initial meeting a month ago—one would think they would be true to their word," said Josh Block, a Democratic strategist and former spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. "Clearly someone failed here. How Israel could be excluded from another meeting of an anti-terror forum that we chair is beyond comprehension, especially one that focuses on victims of terrorism."
"At a time when Romney is challenging the administration's record on U.S.-Israel relations, this error stands out," he added.
"What we’re seeing is a trend of Israel being left out of the global discussion on terrorism, while Israel was extremely helpful during the beginning stages of this conversation," said Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "The [Obama] administration is downplaying the struggle that Israel has been enduring."
"I believe to a certain extent, this is due to regional politics, and it’s disconcerting to see this change," said Schanzer, who pointed out that Israel is the leading authority on strategies to combat terrorism. "It just looks like a quiet effort to downplay the issue."
The State Department stonewalled reporters who inquired about the issue during yesterday’s daily briefing.
"This is a conference about victims of terrorism. And I’m curious to know why [Otero] doesn’t mention Israel or Israelis in her comments talking about victims of terrorism," asked AP reporter Matthew Lee. "Does the administration believe that Israel and Israelis specifically have been victims of terrorism?
"I don’t have the details of the Under Secretary’s speech," responded a State Department spokesperson, who later promised to seek further details on the matter.