September 18, 2019

Reconsidering the War on Terrorism

After 27 years of fighting terrorism, Carmi Gillon is convinced that only through political negotiations with the Palestinians can Israel hope to find real peace.

Gillon capped his long career with Israel’s Shin Bet — whose job is roughly equivalent to the FBI’s — by serving as the director of the internal security agency in 1995 and part of last year.

There has been tremendous pressure to lash out and hit back following the two most recent suicide bombings in Jerusalem, Gillon said in a recent interview at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

He was the keynote speaker at a national symposium on “The Changing Face of Hate and Terrorism,” which was attended by 250 invited guests from law-enforcement and human-relations organizations.

Realistically, though, Israel must choose among three policy options, Gillon continued, and the first is to reconquer the lands ceded to the Palestinian Authority.

“No doubt, Israel could do it, but would it be worth it?” he asked. “Certainly, no one wants Gaza back.”

A second option would be to do nothing. The third is a political solution.

Gillon, who served on the Israeli team that negotiated peace with Jordan, said that job was relatively easy, compared with reaching agreement with the Palestinians.

“It’s always easier to achieve peace between neighbors than between a husband and wife who live in the same house — as we do with the Palestinians,” he said.

In drawing an annual balance sheet on terrorism that compares the period since the 1993 Oslo agreement with the six preceding years of the intifada, Gillon noted a seeming anomaly. The number of terrorist incidents ran 10 times higher during the intifada, but the fatalities in the post-Oslo years have quadrupled since 1993, which marked the beginning of deadly suicide bombings.

In contrast to the Oslo pact, which was negotiated directly between Israel and Yasser Arafat’s PLO, there is now “no peace possibility without America playing a major role,” Gillon said.

In his evening address to symposium participants, Gillon focused on the problem of preventing terrorist attacks by all possible means vis-à-vis rising vocal demands among many Israelis to protect the human rights of all individuals.

The dilemma is particularly acute in the interrogation of suspected terrorists, the most effective tool in foiling planned attacks. Israel must strike a balance between “the wish to protect oneself against murderous terrorism and the wish of our society to protect the rights of individuals,” Gillon said.

During the daylong symposium, Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center noted that the same people who once flocked to the now-declining white supremacist groups are today joining the so- called, and even more insidious, “patriot movement.”

In another session, Sgt. Joseph Levy, hate-crime expert for the Long Beach Police Department, identified two weaknesses in the fight against such incidents.

One is the lack of a uniform definition of hate crime among federal, state and local agencies. The other is a fear among many hate-crime victims that if they report the incident, they may be victimized a second time by law-enforcement agencies.