Monday, 13 September 2010


The IDC Herzlia outdoes all other campuses and organisations when it comes to putting together a powerful conference on critical issues.

I attended the 10th World Summit on Counter Terrorism organised by Boaz Ganor, Executive Director of the Institute for Counter-Terrorism, at the IDC Herzlia.

The opening sessions were called 'Talking Heads'. The first panel included former heads of both the Mossad and the Shabak (General Security Services of Israel).

The moderator, Major-General Danny Rothschild, said that the conference was being held shortly after Rosh HaShana and just before Yom Kippur, a very significant time in the Jewish calendar.
Addressing Israel's security position in the world he said,
"This is the year that may be a turning point politically, militarily, and in security and intelligence. There is the American withdrawal from Iraq and the consequences for that country, the changes in the region, Israel's internal political process in the peace negotiations, and Iran'.

Turning to the panel he said, ' These are the type of people who daily cope with serious and sensitive security issues for Israel, but they are subject to the Government who make the fateful decisions'.

SHABTAI SHAVIT (Former head of the Mossad).
In intelligence you deal with your enemies not with your own forces. Regarding issues facing the security apparatus in Israel in 2010 he included fringe groups that do not obey the law, major strategic allies (USA) and regional allies.

Addressing the current American Administration he said that the current American President was the first that did not display solidarity with Israel, that he outreaches to the Islamic world, and sees Israel as an obstacle quoting someone who said that 'Israel was a pebble in the President's shoe'.

Shavit sees a shift in the once Christian-Jewish solidarity. He recognises an emerging Christian-Muslim solidarity.

Other highlight comments by Shabtai Shavit included:

'We have known alliances with Iran, Turkey, Ethiopia fall apart due to internal changes in those countries'.

'Europe has lost it's will to live. China and India are becoming the center of gravity for the world's economy.  Russia is doing everything it can to stay on the playing field'.

'Anti-Semitism is expressed under the guise of Anti-Israel.  Judaism in America is undergoing a Jewish Holocaust by removing itself from Israel'.

'In order to retain our good name in the international community we have to be careful not to be too successful. If we would have had more casualties maybe we would not have had the Goldstone Report,' he said cynically.

'When the world is against you, stop being right and start being smart. Adopt different methods to fight our enemies'.

Turning to Israel's internal political situation in light of the peace negotiations he said:

'Given a majority in Israel in favour of a two state solution we need to change the coalition. Shas out. Kadema in. Israel Beitenu is a pragmatic party. A new coalition will strengthen the center block in Israel. It will restore the rule of law, draw a distinction between fringe elements and the majority. It will appeal to moderate Arab states.'

Addressing internal security matters he advised that issues involving the local population should move from the IDF responsibility to the border police. The Government finds it easy to send in IDF soldiers to cope with internal security matters but this erodes the ethic of the IDF. The entire chain of command is involved in domestic issues.

'Today, we have the situation where military units come into contact with civilian issues such as land use, licences, demonstrations. These issues should be managed by the police, not the army'.

'There is confusion about hasbara in the military. There must be a clear code who can communicate with the media'.

On the moral issues of the military hierarchy Shavit said,
'It is unthinkable that officers dismissed for offenses can return to the army'.

Attacking Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, he said of the impending appointment of a major-general who lost the bid to replace the current Chief of Staff as the next head of the Mossad,
'For the Defense Minister, this is another ploy to build coalitions and garner support for his policies by appointing people who will be in his debt'.

CARMI GILLON was head of Shabak from 1994-1996. (Rabin was murdered on his watch).
He concentrated on education as an integral part of Israel's security.

'Israel's strength is based on scholarship, especially in R & D, technology'.
Referring to Elon Lindenstrauss of the Hebrew University who won what is considered the 'Nobel' Prize for Mathematics in 2010, he said that Elon had gone from the IDF to Talpiot and then he went abroad. He returned to Israel two years ago and, in the incubator of science, he won this prestigious prize'.

'Roger Kronberg comes to Israel every year for three months from Stanford University. When I asked him why he comes so regularly he told me 'I come for ideas. I go back to execute them''.

'We cannot compete with American salaries but we must compete with the standards in the laboratories and the faculties. It is a question of priorities from the Government. They have the money, they need to allocate it properly'.

'There is added value to IDF service. The IDF contributes enormously to the education of our young men and women in research to technology and systems'.

'Israel is becoming a selfish society. People consider themselves and not society. We no longer have politicians with the vision of Ben Gurion, Begin, and Rabin. Today's politicians are bureaucrats'.

'Do not condemn the Time's article criticising Israel. Treat it like the goy who tells us the truth about ourselves'.

AMI AYALON, head of Shabak for four and a half years, gave us a powerful view of the difficulties thrown in the path of security heads and personnel acting in real time in defense of its citizens.  He called his report
'Democracy against terror - an Israel case study'.

In December 1999, at the height of a wave of terror attacks against Israeli civilians he High Court in Israel passed a ruling banning the use of torture in interrogations of terrorists.  Human dignity clashed with security against a background of the 'ticking bomb'.
The Shabak had to defend basic human rights, namely the murder of the population, yet according to section 39, they no longer had the right to use physical force during interrogations in order to save lives.
As Supreme Court judge, Aharon Barack, said. 'This is a state of democracy. Democracies sometimes have to fight with one hand tied behind its back'.

In December 2006, the Supreme Court in Israel ruled on targeted assassinations. This was the last ruling by Judge Barack. It occured during a period where a thousand Israelis died and 350 Palestinian terrorists were killed in targeted assasinations. Unfortunately, 190 Palestinian civilians also died.
The ruling permitted the targeting of political and religious leaders if they were involved and responsible to terrorist actions.

'President Bush introduced an erroneous vision that there can be no democracy without open and fair elections. The Palestinians held elections. So what? Hamas won.  Democracy has other values'.

Talking of his personal experiences when negotiating with the Palestinians he explained that it was almost impossible to second guess the Palestinian red lines when sitting with them in peace talks. They, on the other hand, knew all our red lines. All they had to do was read our newspapers. That is part of an open democratic society with a free press. It is an integral part of democracy'.

Former Mossad chief, DANNY YATOM, told us of his personal experiences in security and terror.

'The world woke up in shock on 9/11 at the attacks that took 3000 lives. 9/11 had a dramatic effect on the war on terror against democracies. This was something we had been fighting for years.

I remember being in a meeting, before 9/11, with the heads of CIA in Washington DC.  I shared with them the dangers of a nuclear Iran based in real intelligence we had at that time. The response I got was 'You can't be serious. You're exaggerating'.  When I discussed global terror they told me 'Terror. That's your local issue. Don't drag us into it.'

We tried to persuade the world that terror will hit America and Europe. Terrorists respect no borders. They don't distinguish between English and Spanish, between London and Mumbai'.

9/11 caused them to completely change their strategy, though they had their eyes opened with a previous truck attack at the World Trade Center in New York.
The terror war continues, and will continue, for many more years.

Taking a tough line on Iran Yatom said:

'Only military force can stop Iran. Since the sanctions are not enough I am hopeful that the world will come to its senses and reach the conclusion that, to stop the Iranian nuclear arms race, we will have to attack some of their nuclear facilities.
If modern air forces, led by the United States, mobilize their capabilities it is possible, if not to completely remove the threat, at least to delay it for years to come.
If the world failed to meet that challenge Israel retains the right to self defense.
I don't want to live in a situation that I will be sitting in Israel and my fate will be in the hands of others, especially when you are talking about a lunatic regime.
I don't want to be the subject of an Iranian experiment.

Some people say that we should pray that Iran does not go nuclear. Praying is good, but we can also take action'.

YAAKOV PERI, Ex Shabak head, turned to the threat of cyber terror.

'The future of international terror will include cyber terror attacks. Terrorists will adopt more sophisticated methods. The question is not if, but when and how it will happen.

Conventional terror causes the terrorists to train people, make weapons, travel, cross borders, to execute attacks. Cyber terrorists does not need to leave the house.

There have already been examples of cyber terror.During the fighting in Kosovo, hackers flooded NATO computers with viruses. There have been two thousand mini attacks. Israel has participated when one hacker damaged a Hizbollah website. Hizbollah responded by attacking the Knesset website.
Al-Qaida has already opened schools to teach terror students how to perform terror attacks against state networks.

The dangers are international as systems are global.

The main problem in trying to counter this future threat is that states are not happy to cooperate on cyber terrorism. They want to protect their own technological secrets and advantages.

Turning briefly to other issues, Peri told us that Israel faces real dangers with boycotts and delegitimization campaigns.

'It is time for security and intelligence to change gears to public diplomacy in a more efficient may to fight this threat to Israel's legitimacy'.

AVI DICHTER was Shabak head from 2000-2005. He was then made Minister of Internal Security.

'We have to change the reality that makes the homefront the front line in the terror war. Suicide bombers and rockets expose our citizens to brutal attack.

We have to realise that the barrel of terror has a bottom. That doesn't mean you have to kill every last terrorist, but critical mass can deter terror. Terror is an ocean you can't dry out but you can reduce it to manageable proportions.
We have seen waves of terror in the 60s and 70s that also travelled abroad with a hijacking in Vienna and 60 hostages, plane hijackings, attacks at airports such as Ben Gurion and Rome.

In Israel, between 2000-2003, we lost 900 citizens and over 5000 injured in terror attacks. This wave was awful. After we lost 450 people in the Second Intifada we changed strategy.

Operation Defensive Shield attacked all the terror bases in the West Bank. We spent ten billion shekels building the separation fence. People said we were throwing money down the drain. Others objected to it, but this fence prevented the terrorists capability of reaching us. There was a dramatic fall in the number of Israeli casualties.

The separation fence also defines a political border between Israel and the Palestinians. The green line is on a map but you see a fence. A good fence makes good neighbours. Without this fence the Palestinians would not control the West Bank. It would be a porous border.

It is a fact that Israel has not engaged in a conventional war for more than thirty five years.  Instead, we have had 35 years of terror. We are waging wars against terror as a reaction.

Again, we have to change strategy. We cannot allow a terror group to dictate how a democracy behaves. How do we do that? With deterrent? Warnings? Offensive action?  There is a fourth element of active defense.

From 1968, ever since an El Al plane was hijacked, we put bodyguards on our planes. America, through financial considerations, refused to do it. It was too inconvenient for them. That was until things blew up in their face nine years ago.
I was a guard on a plane early in my security career. I can tell you that four guards on four American planes would have got medals on 9/11.
Consider the financial significance of 9/11. Beyond the personal tragedies and individual costs, how do you value the loss of the Twin Towers, the damage to the Pentagon, the added security costs at airports. What about the war on terror as a result of 9/11? It costs one billion dollars a day to fight the terror wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. Some put the cost at three trillion dollars. You could have put bodyguards on every plane in the world for far less than that'.

Terrorists dragged America into Afghanistan. We were dragged into Lebanon and Gaza. The cost, for us, is enormous.  We need a massive budget for active defense. Terrorists win when they inflict huge financial damage to nations. They also know when it is not worth trying to attack us. We stopped the wave of suicide bombers with our separation fence. We can stop rockets with an effective missile defense'.

In closing this session the moderator, Major-General Danny Rothschild,
reminded us of the growing danger of the soft war of delegitimization against Israel.  He saw this as a serious threat to our nation that needs to be challenged.

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