Briefing by Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Diplomatic Corps
Jerusalem, November 29, 2002
Thank you once again for coming at such short notice. We met last time on the 17th of November. I have asked that a list be prepared of all the terrorist attacks we have suffered in the span of these 12 days. Unfortunately, it is quite long. New victims were added yesterday to this list, among them the victims of the murderous attacks in Beit She’an and in Mombasa, Kenya. We had innocent people killed, including two brothers, 12 and 13 year-olds. The mother, who just arrived in Israel, was seriously injured. She was seriously wounded because she protected her third child, a daughter, absorbing the shock.
These are obviously very trying times for all of us in this heated front against terror. I want to thank first the Ambassador of Kenya, for the cooperation of the government of Kenya. We send you condolences for the tragedies that occurred to you. I want to thank those African countries that enabled Israel to use their airspace in order to evacuate the wounded. And I want to thank all the governments here that expressed their condolences and sympathies at our latest tragedies.
What we see from these attacks is that terror has no boundaries. It has no physical boundaries – it can attack anywhere. It has no boundaries on the nationalities of its victims – we have had Africans killed, Israelis, Russians, Americans, Australians, anyone. And now we see, once again, that terror has no moral boundaries, because indeed yesterday was the crossing of a threshold.
The firing of missiles at civilian aircraft is a new and extremely dangerous development in the escalation of terrorism. It is the second wake-up call after September 11th. If any government had pressed the snooze button after September 11th, then they just received the next wake-up call, because it is now possible – and it almost happened yesterday – to fire missiles at civilian aircraft and to down such aircraft with hundreds of passengers in them. These aircraft can hardly be protected at the moment.
Today they are attacking Israel, but tomorrow they will attack the planes of any country. It is important to remember that the other major attack on civil aviation began in the late 1960s with the hijacking of an Israeli aircraft by Palestinian terrorists to Algeria. It began with Israel, but it soon spread as a worldwide epidemic. It took us almost 15 years to get the international community to take the consorted action to break this epidemic and to stop it. What we did was to arrive at a number of agreements and a number of methods to prevent the insertion of hijackers or even bombs into aircraft. We have the technology, we have the political will and cooperation to reduce that threat to a bare minimum today.
We must now engage in the same kind of coordinated effort to protect civilian aircraft from this external threat, which is far more insidious and to which we have not yet built common international defenses.
These defenses fall into a number of areas. First, they fall in the area of technology; there are certain things that can be done, that can be shared, that can be developed. They fall in the area of intensified intelligence cooperation on this particular problem. They fall in the area of political coordination to make sure that we take all the necessary actions on the international front to interdict the flow of these weapons. These weapons are not produced by terror groups, they are not handmade bombs, you cannot produce shoulder-fired missiles. They typically come from arsenals of governments. We know where those arsenals are, we know more or less who keeps them, and we know that groups such as al-Qaida or Hizballah or the Palestinian terrorist groups are working very hard to receive these weapons, including from governments that have them. For example, Hizballah receives its weapons from Iran, through the patronage of Syria. In the end, you always come back to the regimes that support this terror.
I think we have to explore some new initiatives in the field of international treaties and arrangements that we have for the protection of civil aviation. Israel will be making such suggestions in the coming weeks, and we welcome any suggestions that you have. We will be discussing this first, of course, with the leader of the battle against terrorism, the United States. We think that this is something that all responsible states should join, because if this single incident becomes a pattern, then civil aviation could be under a greater threat than we have seen in many, many decades and perhaps for many, many decades to come. This is the immediate need that we must meet.
In addition to that, understand that we will have to take action, which the government will decide on, and we expect that you will lend your support for the kind of actions of self-defense that are the right and the obligation of any government, to protect its citizens.
Thank you very much.