Foreign Ministry baffled as US denies ‘heads-up’ on Palestinian NGO designations

The US State Department has repeatedly claimed it was not informed ahead of time of Israel's designation of Palestinian NGOs as PFLP arms.

 US State Department spokesman Ned Price holds a press briefing on Afghanistan at the State Department in Washington, U.S., August 16, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/POOL)
US State Department spokesman Ned Price holds a press briefing on Afghanistan at the State Department in Washington, U.S., August 16, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/POOL)

The Foreign Ministry insists it informed the US prior to designating six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organizations last week, despite US State Department spokesman Ned Price saying otherwise.

Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General for Strategic Affairs Joshua Zarka on Monday said he had spoken with an official in the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism ahead of the move. The Foreign Ministry would not name the person, but according to the State Department’s website, the senior official in that bureau is Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism John T. Godfrey.

“I certainly updated the US about our intentions,” Zarka told Army Radio. “Maybe they think the update should have been more in-depth. That’s legitimate.”

The Foreign Ministry wants “to repair this so that such a case does not happen again,” he said.

“Relations with the Americans are important, and we don’t want them to feel like they are not our partners,” Zarka said.

 Palestinian militants of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) burn representations of an Israeli flag and a US flag during a protest against Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Gaza City December 7, 2017.  (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM) Palestinian militants of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) burn representations of an Israeli flag and a US flag during a protest against Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Gaza City December 7, 2017. (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)

During a daily press briefing on Sunday, Price said: “We are currently engaging our Israeli partners for more information regarding the basis for these designations.”

“It is, to the best of our knowledge, accurate that we did not receive a specific heads-up about any forthcoming designations,” he said days after multiple Israeli government sources had said the opposite.

A senior Foreign Ministry source said he was “baffled” by Price’s remarks because Zarka did inform the State Department of the plans in advance. The source speculated that Zarka’s interlocutor might not have understood the gravity of the decision and did not pass on the information.

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the Foreign Ministry plan to send a delegation to Washington to present the administration with the information that led to the designation of the six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist groups due to their ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

“We look forward to hearing more details from this delegation,” Price said. “I know that we will be receiving that delegation and hearing what they have to say.”

The Justice and Defense ministries on Friday said several leading Palestinian NGOs were arms of the PFLP terrorist organization.

The ministries issued documents classifying Addameer, Al Haq, Bisan Center, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC) as branches of the PFLP, joining other NGOs that had previously been designated as terrorist affiliates.

Israeli officials said they have intelligence indicating an “unambiguous and direct” connection between the NGOs and the PFLP. The self-proclaimed civil society organizations were used to launder funds for the PFLP’s terrorist activities, as well as recruit new members for it, they said.

The PFLP, a designated terrorist organization in Israel, the US, the EU, Canada, Australia and Japan, was behind a series of hijackings in the 1960s and suicide bombings during the Second Intifada.

In 2019, the PFLP planted the bomb that killed 17-year-old Rina Shnerb and wounded her relatives. Several UAWC employees were arrested for leading and planning the attack.