First published in KAS International Reports 4|2015
Not long ago, the sensible Berliner travelling to work on the U-Bahn line U1 could reasonably assume she was generally immune from the kind of security threats faced regularly by her friend living in Jerusalem. German civilians had not been killed by terrorists on home soil since 1996, when the now extinct Red Army Faction felled its last murderous blow. Palestinian nationalists, who attacked twice in Munich in the early 1970’s, last struck in Germany in 1982. Even al-Qaeda’s infamous Hamburg cell had the Pentagon in its sights, not the Hardthöhe.
By the beginning of 2015, the security ecosystem affecting Israelis and Germans (indeed Europeans more broadly) had converged dramatically and negatively. Early harbingers of trouble appeared already in 2006 when two German youths, Youssef Mohamad El-Hajdib and Jihad Hamad, came within a hair’s breadth of killing hundreds of passengers on two regional trains near Hamm and Koblenz, as well as with the discovery of the Sauerland-Gruppe car-bomb plot in September 2007.
Sadly, both the sources and severity of the threat have grown ominously since the turn of the decade and are unlikely to diminish any time soon. In the coming years, possibly decades, making sure that the sensible Berliner travelling to work on the U-Bahn line U1 remains safe will necessitate a concerted effort to understand the ideology and modus operandi of jihadist terrorism, to contain and ultimately reduce the capacity and motivation of terrorists to attack, and to strengthen German societal resilience. Indeed, the counter-terrorism posture required to protect the Berliner and Jerusalemite, while not identical, will depend on the intelligent and determined application of common guiding principles and so will greatly benefit from intimate German-Israeli dialogue, cooperation, and learning.