State Dept. Blames Israel for Terrorism, Claims Palestinians Rarely Incite Attacks

Latest Trump admin report viewed as wrongly blaming Israel for attacks

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli security forces in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on July 19
Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli security forces in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on July 19 / Getty Images
July 20, 2017

The State Department is facing harsh criticism for claiming in an official report that Israel is to blame for terrorism attacks committed by Palestinians and accusing the Jewish state of being largely responsible for an impasse in peace negotiations, according to a leading member of Congress who is calling on the State Department to correct its "inaccurate and harmful" characterization of Israel.

The State Department, in its latest annual report on the global terrorism situation, blames Israeli security policies for stalling the peace process and claims that Palestinians rarely incite terror attacks.

The claims are coming under fierce criticism from pro-Israel advocates and have prompted one leading member of Congress to formally call on the Trump administration to amend the report to more accurately reflect the situation.

Rep. Peter Roskam (R. Ill.), co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, criticized the latest report in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and called on the administration to immediately amend it to portray Palestinian terror attacks as a primary reason for the impasse in peace talks.

The State Department's current characterization, Roskam claims, is harmful to Israel and likely to impede efforts by the Trump administration to renew peace talks.

"The State Department report includes multiple findings that are both inaccurate and harmful to combating Palestinian terrorism," Roskam wrote in a letter sent Thursday to the State Department, a copy of which was exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. "This report wrongly insinuates Israeli security measures on the Temple Mount and a stalled peace process as key forces behind terrorism."

"Most egregiously," Roskam adds, "it portrays the PA as innocent peacemakers far removed from being the source of terrorist activity."

The State Department characterizes Palestinian calls for terrorism and violence against Israel as "rare," stating: "Explicit calls for violence against Israelis, direct exhortations against Jews, and categorical denials by the [Palestinian Authority] of the possibility of peace with Israel are rare and the leadership does not generally tolerate it."

"This assertion is demonstrably false," Roskam writes. "The PA does not only tolerate terrorist attacks against Israelis but it also incites, rewards, and memorializes those who carry out these horrific attacks."

Regional organizations monitoring the situation routinely cite the Palestinian Authority and its senior officials as calling for violence against Israel and glorifying past terror acts.

Palestinian television programs also promote violence against Israel and Jews, with some aimed at children promoting hatred of the Jewish state.

The Palestinian government also uses U.S. taxpayer aid to pay salaries to one-time terrorists who are imprisoned in Israel. This issue has become a particular sticking point in peace talks with Israel, and Congress is currently considering legislation that could cut all aid to the PA until it formally ends this terror payment policy.

In late 2015, during a massive wave of Palestinian terrorism, attackers carried out 181 stabbing attacks on Israelis, 159 shooting, and 60 vehicular ramming attacks, which called more than 50 Israelis and injured nearly 1,000.

Roskam notes this statistic in his letter to Tillerson.

"I write to express my concern about numerous mischaracterizations found in the 2016 State Department Country Reports on Terrorism, which undermine the prospect for Israeli-Palestinian peace and wrongly blame Israel for Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians," Roskam writes.

"At the highest level, the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership directly incites, rewards, and, in some cases, carries out, terrorist attacks against innocent Israelis," the letter states. "In order to effectively combat terrorism, it is imperative that the United States accurately characterize its root cause—PA leadership."

Roskam calls on the Trump administration "to modify this report to accurately characterize and hold accountable the root causes of Palestinian violence—PA leadership, and clarify the longstanding issue of Palestinian support for terrorism as the leading impediment to Israeli-Palestinian peace."

One senior Congressional source tracking the situation told the Free Beacon that the State Department's findings are appalling to Israel supporters.

"It is unacceptable that the State Department ignores PA-backed terrorism," the source said, adding that Congress is working hard to pass legislation cutting off U.S. aid until the Palestinians cease paying terrorists.

"The State Department should be working to do the same," the source said. "They can begin by correctly reporting the source of Palestinian terrorism—government-led incitement and policies that rewards terrorists."

A second senior congressional source intimately familiar with the situation labeled the report a farce and chided Trump's State Department for towing a line similar to the former Obama administration, which was vocal in its criticism of Israel.

"This report is comically farcical and detached from reality," the source said, "We expect efforts to whitewash history at Israel’s expense from the U.N., but not our own State Department.