What can Europe learn from Israel’s counter-terrorism strategies?

Terrorism on the rise: European population centers under attack by radical Jihadist!

What lessons that can be gleaned by European nations from Israel’s long history of counter-terrorism?

Effective strategies in addressing Jihadism from Israel, a country that has learned hard lessons from decades of blood and tears.

How to address the threat of radical Islamic groups?

The growing trend of Jihadist attacks across major European population centers has called into question the strategy of European governments in addressing the threat of terrorism.

A cohesive plan to address the threat of radical Islamic groups requires a multi-tiered perspective that addresses the many spheres connected to the motivating, planning, and executing of an attack.

Such an approach requires a government to develop positions regarding both overall strategic goals, as well as tactics it is willing, and able, to implement.

Israel is a country with political, social, and strategic realities that differ substantially from those in European countries, sometimes radically so.

However, there are, beyond a doubt, vitally important lessons that can be gleaned by European nations from Israel, a country that has learned hard lessons from decades of blood and tears.

While the scope of the challenge is exceedingly broad, what follows here is an attempt to address two primary themes, vital in bringing about effective change within a country’s security policy.

(c) IDF Israel Defense Forces

Tactics vs Strategy

In any discussion relating to security policy of any kind, it is important to make the distinction between the broader goals and direction that make up strategy on the one hand, and the on-the-ground tactics implemented on a day to day basis, on the other.

When addressing the threat of Jihadism, the underlying perspectives for determining these two areas differ, and in here perhaps lies the first lesson to be gleaned from Israel.

A Culture of Security: An Attitude on Tactics

Proper tactics are determined by the weighing of needs of security against the need to maintain freedom in the lives of citizenry.

This requires a paradigm shift in the attitude of both governmental bodies and the population on how responsibilities for security fall of the average resident.

Most Europeans have no concept of integrating security practices into their daily routine.

Take the Bataclan Theater massacre, the most deadly of the 2015 Paris attacks, as a case in point.

The three attackers were able to keep up their deadly rampage at the theater for nearly twenty minutes, before authorities were able to respond to the scene.

When security forces did arrive, the attackers had already taken up secured positions within the building under protection of some 60 to 100 hostages.

The incident finally ended nearly three hours after it began when elite forces of the French RAID unit stormed the building, spurred by fears that the attackers had begun to execute hostages.

In contrast, it is almost inconceivable to most Israelis that a major entertainment event would not have high levels of security already deployed on site, hours before commencement.

All ticket holders would consider it normal to pass through metal detectors and even undergo a brief inspection before entering.

Do these protocols create logistical challenges in the execution of such an event and even pass extra costs onto attendees?

Without a doubt.

However the necessity of such measures has been firmly entrenched in the consciousness of Israeli society, and the collective citizenry has, over time, successfully integrated these needs into the “normal” flow of everyday life.

This integration is possible, and indeed necessary, for Europe as well.    

(c) France 24

The strategy of “Soft Readiness”

In a 4 June article from the British Guardian, the author boasted about the swift police response to the London Bridge attack that had taken place a day earlier in the article’s title

“Within eight minutes suspects were dead”.

While police did respond bravely and effectively to the attack, undoubtedly saving lives, the incident highlight the need for a “soft readiness” strategy similar what is currently practiced in high risk areas in Israel.

Soft readiness means maintaining a security presence capable of swiftly addressing an attack suspected of coming, short of having personnel peering down barrels with fingers on the trigger.

The approach requires authorities to identify likely locations an assailant would target, based on vulnerability and target value, and then deploying personnel at strategic points in a way that target areas are never out of immediate response range of any given unit.

To maintain efficiency, the deployment integrates stationary units with moving mobile patrols, in urban areas, primarily on foot.

The majority of street attacks in Israel since the commencement of the so called “knife Intifada” in late 2015, have ended with the swift neutralization of the assailant shortly after the first signs of violence, simply due to the constant close proximity of security forces.

(c) IDF Israel Defense Forces

Strategy: Breaking the War Machine

An effective strategy in addressing Jihadism can only come from the understanding that this violent movement functions in many of same ways as does a military campaign.

While Jihadist attacks are certainly executed through unconventional methods, many of the underlying forces enabling the movement are the same as conventional warfare.

Just as every war requires an infrastructure to bolster its efforts, made up of material and ideological support, so too, Jihadism is supported by familial and communal networks, as well as steady and persistent ideological motivators that keep all necessary resources flowing into the movement’s efforts.    

First and foremost Europe must address the growing phenomenon of Islamic population enclaves that allow would-be terrorists to plan their operations, are used as a launching pads for attacks, and often as hiding places from authorities in the aftermath of an action.

What is the challenge posed by these enclaves, almost always located in close proximity to major European urban centers?

While actual terrorists make up an infinitesimally small percentage of the Islamic population, those with mild sympathies to terrorists make up a much larger segment.

According to a series of surveys taken over 2016 in the United Kingdom by private polling agencies such as ICM Unlimited, it was determined that nearly half of British Muslims would not report to authorities on the connection of friends or family members to terror groups.

Other polls placed the percentage at closer to two thirds.

This sympathy translates into actual support and assistance relayed to terrorists.

(c) IDF Israel Defense Forces

Europe must begin to develop a human intelligence network

Consider the manhunt for Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslamin. Abdeslamin was arrested by authorities in the Brussels borough of Molenbeek in March of 2016 after a nearly four month search.

Investigations revealed that many residents of the densely settled suburb, with a Muslim population upwards of 40 percent, had been aware of Abdeslamin’s presence but had refused to report him.

To address this issue, Europe must begin to develop a HUMINT strategy, or human intelligence network, modeled on Israel’s internal security agency, Sherut Bitahon Klali, or Shabak.

The network of informants and sources within communities, developed by handlers over years, allow Shabak to glean important general information about activities within the community and even tactical intelligence.

When Israeli forces enter a Palestinian city within the West Bank to make a targeted arrest, they are equipped with knowledge not only of the suspects history and family ties, but also the sympathies and affiliations of the neighbors.

This network of intelligence insures that security forces are not flying blind in efforts to identify, locate, and arrest terror suspects.

This approach is easier suggested than executed. Such a model would require European security agencies to begin building, with sensitivity and moderation, trust and relationships within areas fraught with anti-government sentiment, many of which are so dangerous to anyone perceived as connected to the authorities that official agencies are often restricted from entering.

Over time however such an intelligence structure can be built.    

(c) abc News

Targeting religious and media institutions

Incitement in the form of radical religious indoctrination and preaching is also a major problem in Europe, and goes to the heart of the issue of communities fostering terror.

While Israel maintains full freedom of press and tolerates the most vile, anti-government rhetoric, from Israelis and Palestinians alike, the government does—not commonly but certainly with some regularity—forcibly shut down venues deemed as radicalizing its audience and inciting violence.

This includes targeting both religious and media institutions.

Many European countries are indeed beginning to wake to the necessity of these measures.

In August 2016 for instance, the then French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve reported that authorities had shut down 20 mosques across the country over the previous eight months as part of the “fight against radicalism.”

Religious figures in the mosques targeted were reportedly explicitly preaching the undertaking of violent actions.

To be effective in combating Jihadism at its root, governments must expand their awareness of the role community plays in influencing, supporting, and enabling terror.

This statement is directed not just at religious figures and institutions but to schools, and community centers.

Unfortunately, policies in Europe over the past decade have largely ignored this important element, and often only strengthened the communal enforcement of radicalization.

At the top of this list of policies is mass immigration which makes integration of a foreign population nearly impossible and leads to the creation of the Jihad-supportive enclaves spoken of above.

With determination and vision however, European nations can begin to implement a strategy of reclaiming control of its internal security, by both integrating citizen cooperation on the tactical level, as well as reasserting its security and intelligence presence.  

(c) IDF Israel Defense Forces

About the author

Samuel Siskind studied intelligence research and analysis at the American Military University in West Virginia, with a focus on intelligence operation and history of intelligence development.

He then enlisted in the Israeli Defense Forces, in the Corp of Combat Engineers ground battalions where he completed several deployment’s in the West Bank and Israel’s north.

Upon graduating the Corp’s Squad Commander Course, he was stationed in the Engineer Wing of Judea and Samaria Divisional headquarters where he acted in a variety of roles within demolition and intelligence missions.

After being discharged from military service, Samuel was employed by an Israeli based firm which provided security research and consulting for international clients in the fields of journalism, entertainment, and finance.

He lives in Jerusalem.


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By | 2018-02-14T11:07:57+00:00 July 10th, 2017|Categories: Special Operations Forces|Tags: , , , , , , , |Comments Off on What can Europe learn from Israel’s counter-terrorism strategies?
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