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Fighting Terror and Winning

Binyamin Netanyahu

Policy Paper No. 66, from the book,
Israel and a Palestinian State: Zero Sum Game?, 2001


Terrorism is back with a vengeance. After being subdued internationally and within most Western countries in the late 1980s, it has returned in ferocious and fearful new forms. The new terrorism boasts few, if any, hostage takings and practically no hijackings. It specializes in the bombing of its targets and seeks to evade punishment by hiding more deeply in the shadows than did its predecessors punishment meted out in the 1980s to hostage takers and airline hijackers, and to their sponsors, made the more overt kind of terrorism a costly affair.

Terrorism expands to fill the vacuum left by passivity or weakness. It shrinks when confronted with resolute and decisive action. Terrorists may test this resolution a number of times before they draw back, so governments have to be prepared to sustain anti-terror policies through shrill criticism, anxious calls to give in to terrorists' demands, and even responses of panic. What this new terrorism portends for Israel, America and the world and what can be done about it has not yet been sufficiently understood. The growth of terrorism has been accompanied by a steady escalation in the means of violence, arms used to assassinate individuals, from small arms used to mow down groups, to car bombs now capable of bringing down entire buildings, to lethal chemicals that can threaten entire cities. The very real possibility that terrorist states and organizations may soon acquire horrific weapons of mass destruction and use them to escalate terrorism beyond our wildest nightmares has not been addressed properly by Western governments.

The first obstacle to the spread of domestic terrorism in most democracies is in the realm of political culture, the second is in the realm of operations. My first intention when writing about terrorism has been, accordingly, to alert the citizens and decision-makers of the West as to the nature of the new terrorist challenge which the democracies now face. In this time of historic flux, Western leaders have a responsibility to resist the tendency for passivity, the temptation to rest on the laurels of the victory over Communism as though nothing else truly could jeopardize their societies. They may:

  1. Impose sanctions on suppliers of nuclear technology to terrorist states.
  2. Impose diplomatic, economic, and military sanctions on the terrorist states themselves.
  3. Neutralize terrorist enclaves.
  4. Freeze financial assets in the West of terrorist regimes and organizations.
  5. Share intelligence.
  6. Revise legislation to enable greater surveillance and action against organizations inciting to violence, subject to periodic renewal.
  7. Actively pursue terrorists.
  8. Do not release jailed terrorists.
  9. Train special forces to fight terrorism.
  10. Educate the public.

An effective battle against terrorism must of necessity require a shift in the domestic and international policies that enable terrorism to grow and the intensification of those efforts that can uproot it. Domestically in the United States, this requires a reassessment of the legal instruments necessary for combating homegrown terrorism, alongside the means to monitor added powers given to the government to pursue these ends. Internationally, this means identifying the great change that has taken place in the forces driving worldwide terrorism since the 1980s, and shaping a powerful international alliance against them.

But it is a certainty that there is no way to fight terrorism other than to fight it.

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