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Strategies for Countering Terrorism: Lessons From the Israeli Experience

NCJ Number
Jonathan B. Tucker Ph.D.
Date Published
March 2003
13 pages
This document discusses lessons for countering terrorism from the Israeli experience.
Over the past 50 years, the Israeli government has developed numerous measures to prevent terrorist attacks or mitigate their effects. The primary goals of the counterterrorism strategy are to prevent terrorists from influencing the national agenda and preserve the psychological resilience of the civilian population. Many of the lessons learned by Israeli counterterrorism experts are relevant to the current United States campaign against al Qaeda. One lesson is the importance of an alert and motivated citizenry for helping to prevent terrorist attacks. Another is the key role of intelligence collection and analysis, which provide the foundation for all counterterrorism efforts. There is a need for close collaboration and coordination between foreign and domestic intelligence agencies in collecting and analyzing information on terrorist threats. Another important lesson is the limited use of assassination as a counterterrorism tool, including the risks of the boomerang effect. There is value in basing aviation security primarily on an assessment of human factors, backed up with a variety of screening technologies and steps to “harden” passenger aircraft against hijacking and explosives. There is great importance in the use of educational campaigns to bolster the psychological resilience of the civilian population against the demoralizing effects of terrorism. Both Israel and the United States have focused narrowly on military actions against terrorism while neglecting its root causes. Terrorism is a symptom of deeper political, religious, or social problems that cannot be solved by military means alone. The United States needs to address the roots of Islamic terrorism, which lie in the chronic lack of political freedom and economic opportunity in the Arab world. It also needs to aggressively pursue those extremists that seek to kill Americans. A variety of policy tools -- military, political, economic, and diplomatic -- are needed over a protracted period of time to fight terrorism. 52 references