Yesterday, we ran an interview with Ami Pedahzur about his new book The Israeli Secret Services and the Struggle Against Terrorism. In the interview, Pedahzur explores why Israel has failed to stop terrorism despite the amount of resources it has devoted to counterterrorism. Pedahzur argues that the Israeli strategy, based on a “war model,” has often been motivated more by political and psychological goals rather than strategic ones. In considering the recent offensive in the Gaza strip, Pedahzur writes, “This operation, like many Israeli counterterrorism offensives in the past, seems to be driven by the policy makers’ desire to show the terrorized public that they are determined to inflict pain on the enemy.”
In an excerpt from the book, taken from the chapter “Fighting the Terrorism Plague,” Pedahzur expands on his points and lays out some policy recommendations. In place of a “war model’ that emphasizes assassination and other dramatic violent acts, Pedahzur suggests Israel adopts a defensive model that consists of three main stages: prevention, crisis management, and reconstruction. Pedahzur writes,
Over the years, terrorism aimed at Israel has become more aggressive, and the civilian home front has become the front line. The Israeli war model, which has also been replicated in other countries, has not proven to be a success in meeting its goals. In order to effectively contend with terrorism, it is incumbent to transfer the bulk of counterterrorism activity to alternative models…. Policymakers themselves intensify the fear [of terrorism] by warning the public of the unavoidable revenge. Hence, not only do such assassinations not undermine the capabilities of the various terrorist groups to attack, but they also intensify the terrorists’ desire to prove their viability by amplifying the psychological fear factor. Clear and honest statements by politicians who tell the public that terrorism, despite its horrific outcomes, rarely poses a major threat to the state’s national security would be welcome in that connection. Such statements would reassure the public and undermine the attempts of the terrorists to create a continuous state of fear, chaos, and mistrust of the public in its leaders. Beyond mitigating the psychological impact of terrorism, policy-makers should allocate resources and formulate a defensive model that consists of three main stages: prevention, crisis management, and reconstruction.