The 21st century has barely begun, and it is already clear that the most important threat to international peace and stability today is terrorism. But a serious fight against terrorism cannot begin as long as there is a tendency to attribute all international conflicts to the Israeli-Palestinian one.

by Ehud Gol, Israel Ambassador to Rome
(Published in Corriere Della Sera, June 15, 2004)

The 21st century has barely begun, and it is already clear that the most important threat to international peace and stability today is terrorism. The last three years have been record-breaking in the number of terror attacks and their victims, from Bali to Moscow, from Jerusalem to New York, from Madrid to Baghdad. Terrorism is by no means a new thing, but its widespread use at the hands of radical Islam is a phenomenon that the world is only now starting to confront. But a serious fight against terrorism cannot begin as long as there is a tendency to attribute all international conflicts to the Israeli-Palestinian one.

Radical Islam has a fundamentalist agenda that crosses borders, nationalities and ethnicity. It aims to impose its religion, its laws, its way of life on moderate Arab states (such as Morocco, Egypt or Jordan) as well as on western democracies (USA, Spain, Italy) whose enlightened, modern way of life is seen as a threat to fundamentalism.

It is therefore not only morally wrong but also intellectually false to attribute this world epidemic to the fact that Israelis and Palestinians have not yet resolved their differences. Yes, radical Islamic elements participate in the Palestinian fight against Israel. But radical Moslems killing people in the Philippines, in Chechnya, in Karachi or in Algeria have nothing to do with the Palestinian cause. Bin Laden, who killed thousands of American citizens, did not do it in order to help the Palestinians – he killed out of hate for the west. Radical Moslems are trying to destabilize world regimes, not to find a solution to the Palestinian problem. At the G-8 summit a few days ago, it has been said that conflicts should not be an obstacle to reforms, and rather reforms should contribute to conflict resolution. Those who insist on postponing all political reform in the Arab world until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved, are perpetuating dictatorship, corruption, instability, hatred and violence.

When terrorists began to hijack airplanes in 1968, the international community believed it was only an anti-Israeli phenomenon. The world did nothing. Today, air piracy threatens all the airways of the world. When suicide bombers began blowing themselves up on Israeli buses and in Israeli restaurants, the world criticized us for defending ourselves. Today, Saudi Arabia, once an indifferent observer as long as Israelis were killed, is a prime target for that same terrorism.

We are strongly determined to resolve our conflict and we will do everything possible in order to find a peaceful solution. The Israeli Government recently adopted a courageous plan for disengagement from Palestinian territories. But even after Israelis and Palestinians will have resolved their local conflict, it would be naïve to expect international terrorism to renounce its goal of destroying democratic values in western countries. Israel is a pretext for those who wish to blame us for Islamic terrorism. But Israel is not the reason for this plague: it is its biggest victim.