"Ways of Coping with Terror"

Remarks by Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer at a High-Tech Convention

October 23, 2001

When we talk about terror, which to our misfortune has been accompanying Israel since its establishment, it would be wise to begin by defining the concept terror.

Terror is a kind of limited struggle in which violence is used against civilians as a mode of action in order to achieve political objectives.

In the case of Islamic terror, the definition may be expanded by adding religious objectives.

In order not to remain on a theoretical level only, I would like to analyze the conflict in which Israel has been involved since its establishment, in which terror is used against the citizens of the State of Israel, while focusing on the armed conflict against the Palestinians over the past year.

Terror is not only Israel’s problem, it is exploited against countries worldwide, as we have recently witnessed. Even a great superpower is not protected from terror.

Terror has several main features:

  1. Hitting the country’s "soft spot" – striking at its citizens. It receives broad media coverage, sometimes even on a global level (such as in the case of the terror in the United States).
  2. Undermining citizens’ sense of security.
  3. Hitting civilians without distinction (as opposed to guerilla warfare in which there are military and establishment-related objectives).
  4. Terror does not take rules and international conventions into account, nor does it obey any law, including moral and international laws. Terror is not governed by any form of state or global law and order.
  5. Terror uses any possible weapon, including the use of civilian technological platforms as the basis for weaponry and ammunition. For example, in the case of the Twin Towers, Bin-Laden converted the plane into a weapon and the fuel into ammunition, thus multiplying the force of the destruction, the killing and its intensity.
  6. The type of terror that is selected is one which, in the opinion of those executing it, promotes the political objectives in the best and quickest way.
  7. Using advanced technologies in the civilian domain and converting them into a terror component.

The components of the threat of international terror:

  1. Terror is used by organizations to achieve national objectives in various countries throughout the world. Worldwide Islamic terror aims at harming Jews anywhere in the world – embassies, synagogues, etc.
  2. Internal terror, within the country, is used mainly in civil wars when a group within the country wishes to achieve political results through terror (for example – Ireland).
  3. Inter-state terror, in which one country uses terror (and not guerilla warfare or full-scale war) against another country, usually characterizes weak countries that cannot defeat a rival country in a conventional struggle.

Components of terror in the State of Israel

Who implements terror?

  1. The Palestinian Authority, which claims the right to its own country, on its own terms, within the State of Israel and uses direct or indirect terror to achieve this end through other terror organizations over which it has no control, or has no desire to control.
  2. Terror organizations that stand for the liberation of Palestine which are based upon radical Muslim religious movements (Hamas, Islamic Jihad).
  3. National liberation movements that are nationally rather than religiously based (such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, responsibile for the assassination of Tourism Minister Ze’evy.)

Ways of activating terror:

  1. Suicide bombers in densely populated centers as the number one component.
  2. Car bombs in densely populated centers, converting cars into a bomb which serves as both weapon and ammunition, particularly within the Green Line.
  3. Shooting attacks against civilians on the roads (in Judea and Samaria region and in the Gaza Strip area, but recently, also within the Green Line).
  4. Shooting at settlements (with small arms or mortars) with the objective of hitting civilians and property within the settlement.

The objective of all forms of terror is the attack against a maximum number of civilians anywhere, with no geographical distinction or differentiation between the type of civilians.

Recently, in the Gaza Strip, we have seen entry into settlements as well (Elei Sinai) and an attack on civilians within the settlement without distinction.

Ways of coping with terror:

  1. Having a full supply of patience and forbearance – personal and social strength, because without this component there is no way of coping with terror over time.
  2. Good and focused intelligence and sophisticated methods in creative implementation to seek and acquire intelligence (while using advanced technological means).
  3. Self-protection – seeking out terrorists everywhere and attempting to strike at them prior to the execution of a terror attack.
  4. Preventing the exit of terrorists from high-risk cities by imposing internal and external closures. I wish to clarify that our forces that have surrounded some Palestinian cities are only taking security measured as arresting terrorists and preventing the export of terror attacks from these cities. Our only goal is to act in self-defense; we have no wish to stay there, to occupy these territories or to destroy the Palestinian Authority. Our only intention is to prevent terror attacks and make the Palestinians begin acting against terror.
  5. Setting obstacles to prevent the departure of terrorists (mainly a fence, such as the fence around the Gaza Strip).
  6. Punishments – hitting the headquarters and other centers in order to punish those who establish terrorist policy and those who send the terrorists.
  7. Separating between the war against terror (hitting the terrorists and those who sent them) while creating a relief program for innocent civilians.
  8. Attempt to reach an understanding at the negotiating table, to put an end to terror (unfortunately, we do not see any partner for this purpose, at the moment).

What is our greatest disadvantage in handling terror?

The best way to fight terror is to use terror itself. The State of Israel, which has selected a path based on values and ethics, cannot allow itself to kill innocent civilians, women and children. We cannot pay Palestinian terror back with its own weapon.

The security-economic link:

I would like to point out that contrary to the false impression that may have been formed – Israel is a very stable country from a security, economic, political and social point of view. We have been living since our establishment under the threat of terror and this has not stopped us from building one of the most advanced and sophisticated economies in the world. Israel has accomplished great achievements in the industrial field, particularly in advanced hi-tech industries.

We will continue this trend in the future as well. Unfortunately, we have witnessed how terror can hit any place in the world which promotes Western values.

The Defense establishment, for its part, shall continue to act to provide maximum security and stability in order to allow Israeli society to continue prospering as it has since the establishment of the State of Israel.

Our policy is to fight an uncompromising war against terror. We shall continue to strive to return to the negotiating table. We are committed to the Tenet and Mitchell Plans and to the quest for a political solution to the armed conflict with the Palestinians.