Ariel Center for
Policy Research



NATIV  Volume Sixteen   Number 6 (95)  ■  November  2003 ■ Kislev 5764 ■ Ariel Center for Policy Research





Is There International Cooperation in the War on Terror?

Zalman Shoval

As modern terrorism transcends borders, the existence of international cooperation in the struggle against it is imperative. However, that is not the reality.

The terrorism threatening the world today is unique not only in terms of its methods but also in terms of its objectives. The declared objective of Islamic terrorism is not to fix the world or to advance social solutions – its objective is to destroy and demolish. In its most extreme manifestation, it is interested in obliterating all Western values.

The war against terrorism and the wars and struggles against Nazism are identical, as the extreme ideologies of Islam and the Arab world have already caused, and are liable to continue to cause, results no less severe than those caused by Hitlerism and Stalinism.

Until the 11th of September, and at times even thereafter, there were official American spokesmen, especially in the State Department, who in their desire to distinguish between “their” war against terrorism and Palestinian terrorism characterized the latter as belonging in some kind of “gray area”, not exactly “real” terrorism. This distinction did not last very long, primarily due to the clear, unequivocal statements of President Bush Jr., that there is no such thing as “good terrorism” and “bad terrorism”. The Europeans, on the other hand, articulate contempt and hostility towards the ostensible “simplicity” of the Americans in general and of President Bush in particular, as those who view everything in hues of black and white. It must be emphasized that despite the sincere empathy, which the Europeans demonstrated towards the Americans after the bombing of the Twin Towers, as soon as Washington began speaking about broader strategic targets in the war against terrorism, beyond the objective of al-Qaeda and Bin-Laden – most European governments, and public opinion there to an even greater extent, recoiled from and opposed the American course of action.

In the view of the American administration, the war in Iraq constituted a central stage in the war against terrorism – and in practical, as opposed to propaganda, terms – from its perspective, it made no difference whether or not any connection existed between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, as the swift and crushing victory over Saddam Hussein was designed to signal to the other countries operating or supporting terrorism, that Bush’s America, as opposed to Clinton’s America, is not a “paper tiger”, and that it is serious and determined to take action against them as well, if they do not change their ways. Only the future will prove whether or not the strategy of “so that they may see and fear” will be effective. One can only hope that there will not be a historic waste of an opportunity, as 2003, in the wake of the Iraq campaign, could have been the year of the turning point in the war against terrorism.

For years, Israel and American experts on terrorism have pointed to the activity of people and elements in the service of Palestinian terrorist organizations in America – both in the financial realm and in other areas – however, beyond possible political considerations, the legal situation in the United States and the protection of human rights provided by the American constitution, prevented the authorities from taking effective action. From that perspective, it was only after the Twin Towers incident that a change took place and effective laws were legislated, an office of Home Security was established, and the assets of various Islamic “charity organizations” were frozen, organizations, which channeled funds to terrorist organizations throughout the world. Much has been said and written about the deep financial involvement of Saudi elements in financing al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, and it is not for naught that the American, European and Asian authorities are expending every effort to decipher the secrecy surrounding the clandestine ways in which funds from various sources flow to the terrorist organizations.

With the conclusion of the Cold War, a genuine dilemma existed – it was not clear from which direction, if at all, the next threat to the United States and the free world was imminent. Would it be from the “backward countries”, due to their instability, or from Russia, the Ukraine, et al., which possess enormous stockpiles of missiles and nuclear weapons? Perhaps from China, which is gradually growing stronger, or perhaps from Islamic fundamentalism – despite the fact that some American experts refuse to treat it as a tangible threat? As a result, in the absence of clear instructions, none of the branches of the American security forces mobilized in order to appropriately deal with any of the aforementioned threats, including terrorism. However, when that happened, they recovered quickly.

In summary, it may be said that the obvious natural conclusion is that in the era of global terrorism, the war against it must be global. The problem is that unfortunately, in practice it is not always possible, whether for operational reasons or from various, obvious and less obvious, political considerations of the relevant countries. And therefore, in this period as well, which was supposed to be marked by the complete mobilization of all civilized countries together for the purpose of an all-out war against terrorism and by maximal international cooperation – each country individually, including Israel, must maintain its independent operational capability against the terrorist bodies threatening it, even if doing so is liable at times to complicate its diplomatic relations.


ACPR Contact usNativ IndexNativ in Hebrew