The terrorist attack against Israeli civilians in Bulgaria, the flurry of drive-by visits from members of the Obama administration to Israel in the past few days, and the president’s failure to visit the Jewish state throughout his tenure should prompt a consideration of the extent to which Mr. Obama really understands Israel’s life-and-death struggles.
Particularly telling is the recent rollout of the president’s signature global anti-terrorism institution, the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF). The GCTF was announced by Secretary Clinton last September, but in June and July it held its first “ministerial level plenary” and “High Level Conference on Victims of Terrorism.” Successive announcements from State Department officials from Clinton on down have described the GCTF as a “major initiative,” “an international counterterrorism network as nimble and adaptive as our adversaries,” “a global venue to identify essential priorities,” and a “platform for senior counterterrorism policymakers and experts from around the world to devise solutions for addressing key counterterrorism challenges.”
And yet, the Obama administration selected Turkey as its co-chair and then agreed to Turkey’s request to veto Israel’s participation.
The founding members of the GCTF include the EU and virtually all other members of the “Western European and Others” (WEOG) regional group of the United Nations — which the Obama administration has long claimed ought to include Israel — along with eleven Muslim-majority nations. According to Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, the State Department coordinator for counterterrorism, the “key” Muslim states were included because they “are on the front lines in the struggle against terrorism.” A criterion that should have put Israel at the top of his list.
Even more disconcerting are the priorities and solutions that the front-line GCTF players have identified. The United Arab Emirates has been charged with creating one of the main “deliverables,” namely, an International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism. In the words of a State Department Fact Sheet of June 7, 2012, the UAE center “will focus on training, research, and dialogue and collaboration, to counter violent extremism in all of its forms and manifestations.”
No wonder Ambassador Benjamin declared at the forum’s September launch that the Obama initiative would not “go through the same old rather sterile debates of what constitutes terrorism.” Every one of the “key” Muslim nations in the GCTF is a party to an international treaty called the Convention of the Organization of the Islamic Conference on Combating International Terrorism. That treaty exempts from “terrorist crimes” “armed struggle against foreign occupation, aggression, colonialism, and hegemony, aimed at liberation and self-determination.” Consequently, terrorism against Israelis, or Americans accused of being in the wrong places, will not be appearing on the center’s agenda.