WASHINGTON (JTA) – The U.S. State Department defended an annual report on terrorism under fire from pro-Israel groups for saying that a lack of hope drives Palestinian violence.
Meanwhile, the umbrella foreign policy group for Jewish organizations expressed its “deep concerns” about the report, saying it shifts responsibility for terrorism from the Palestinians to Israel.
“In that report we consistently highlight terror attacks perpetuated against Israelis – and I’m just talking about the Israel portion – because this is a worldwide report,” Heather Nauert, the State Department spokeswoman, said Tuesday in a briefing when asked about a call from the Zionist Organization of America for U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s resignation because of the report.
“Those terror attacks that are perpetuated against Israelis by Hamas and others, there is no justification – and we will say that time and time again – there is no justification for any acts of terrorism,” she said, adding that Tillerson had no plans to resign.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Wednesday said it wrote Tillerson to express “deep concern” about the report.
“We hope that Secretary Tillerson will rescind this report and see to an amended version that properly puts the responsibility for the terrorism and incitement that has taken such a heavy toll where it belongs on [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas and the PA,” a Presidents Conference statement said. “This report cannot be allowed to stand because other countries and terrorist groups may use it to justify their anti-Israel actions.”
In the report released last week, the State Department listed as “continued drivers of violence” a “lack of hope in achieving Palestinian statehood, Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, the perception that the Israeli government was changing the status quo on the Haram Al Sharif/Temple Mount, and IDF tactics that the Palestinians considered overly aggressive.”
The State Department report said that Palestinian leaders had addressed incitement.
“The PA has taken significant steps during President Abbas’ tenure (2005 to date) to ensure that official institutions in the West Bank under its control do not create or disseminate content that incites violence,” it said. “While some PA leaders have made provocative and inflammatory comments, the PA has made progress in reducing official rhetoric that could be considered incitement to violence.”
The report otherwise described Israel as a “committed counterterrorism partner” and detailed the threats that Israel continues to face, particularly from Iran-backed groups.