First published in Herzeliyan Winter 2016 Update
With the continuous rise of ISIS, the spread of homegrown and “lone wolf” terrorism, and the instability rocking Syria, Iraq and Africa, this year’s conference held by IDC Herzliya’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism was as relevant as ever.
More than 1,000 decision-makers, defense, intelligence and police officials, academics, and security industry leaders from over 60 countries took part in the 2015 World Summit on Counter-Terrorism, which was held during the week of September 11, 2015. Two days of plenary sessions were held at the Sharon Hotel in Herzliya, during which participants discussed issues including the challenges posed by ISIS, Hamas and Hezbollah, and the counter-terrorism policy known as Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), followed by two days of workshop sessions on the IDC campus.
This year’s conference theme was “The Shifting Sands of Terrorism.” Speakers explored the proliferation of terrorism in an evolving environment, the growing diversity of terrorist actors, and the possible counter-terrorism strategies to respond to these threats. Formal terrorist groups continue to pose formidable challenges to the security of states, while informal actors such as local networks, foreign fighters, and lone wolves have amassed the potential to inflict significant damage and sow fear among the population.
Prof. Boaz Ganor, founder and executive director of ICT and dean of the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy & Strategy, addressed the challenges faced by states in implementing counter-terrorism policy.
“They can't actually fight with full force because they are contained by the shackles of the values of a liberal democracy," Ganor said. "Over the last few years we've seen an additional dimension that aims at delegitimizing the foe: the legal battlefield, that of international tribunals and courts.”
Israeli Construction Minister Yoav Galant outlined three dangers: the rise of Iran, the global Sunni rebellion, and the dismantling of the regular states in the Middle East.
“I think that the ISIS ideology poses great danger to the Western world,” he said. “They are ready to kill and be killed in scopes way beyond what we have seen up to today. There is a danger that an organization like ISIS will get unconventional weaponry and be ready to use it.”
Prof. Assaf Moghadam, ICT’s director of Academic Affairs, warned “not to forget about al-Qaida. People have declared al-Qaida dead various times over the last 25 years, but it is a force to be reckoned with and works in different ways to maintain its survival.”
During a session titled “Hamas: Between Fatah and the Salafists?”, Maj. Gen. Shlomo "Sami" Turgeman, outgoing commander of the Israeli Defense Forces’ Southern Command and a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at ICT, said Hamas is “building its power and military structure according to military logic, including attack and defense, with land, sea and air capabilities. We see a conventional military structure, though its targets of action are those of a terrorist organization."
Hamas is also dealing with the rise of Salafism in the Gaza Strip, Turgeman said.
“It is concerned that Salafist groups are undermining its control and sovereignty over Gaza. There have been several instances in which the Salafists have used force against Hamas. The Salafists are to Hamas both an ideological threat and a threat to its ability to keep order," he said. "Therefore, we see how Hamas is using all its intelligence capabilities against those groups. It is taking preventative measures and making arrests to suppress the Salafist awakening."
In a session entitled “What is the Name of the Game: Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) or Countering Terrorism?” Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones, the U.K.'s former security and counter-terrorism minister, discussed the recent British experience.
“Destroying the enemies must start with destroying their ability to recruit,” she said.
Ganor discussed the wave of Muslim immigration to Europe, tying it to CVE and the question of how it will influence future waves of terrorism in Europe.
“Europe is now facing a huge dilemma between the fear of large waves of immigration and how this will change its traditional Christian nature against the moral imperative of opening the gates for those in need, such as refugees seeking asylum," he said. "The immediate threat is the infiltration of radical Islamists and returning foreign fighters. An ISIS spokesman has claimed that 4,000 foreign fighters have already entered Europe. The midterm threat is the radicalization process that will give birth to violent extremism and lone wolf attacks. And the long term threat is the frustration that will lead to second- and third-generation violent extremism and terrorism.”
Judge Jean-Paul Laborde, executive director of the U.N. Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), discussed the importance of cooperation with research institutes. “I need to work with you,” he said. “That is the reason why I am here. I would like to promote the idea that the U.N. member states, the research community and the private sector should finally cooperate, better, faster, with more fluidity and more flexibility. If we are to tackle this rapidly evolving and fluid threat, I propose that we think of ourselves as one community that shares the same values of life, the rule of law, and human rights.”
Thomas J. Ridge, the first secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a former governor of Pennsylvania, said, “We are not at war against terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic. We are being confronted with zealotry, a belief system, and a distorted interpretation of Islam and the philosophical tenants of the Quran. The Iranian government is a central bank for terrorism around the world today. I was disappointed and distressed that my country lifted the sanctions on the Iranian regime. I’m quite confident that Iran will use some of those proceeds to build bigger infrastructure and train cyber war agents.”
The workshops that took place on the last two days of the conference dealt with the evolving environment affecting the terrorist threat, including cyber-terrorism, geopolitics, and ideologies; the growing diversity of those engaged in acts of terrorism, from individuals to informal networks to state actors; and counter-terrorism, including the role of police and law enforcement, deterrence and military victory, and de-radicalization.
During the Steven E. Stern Workshop on Cyber-Terrorism and Communication, chairman and ICT Deputy Director Dr. Eitan Azani said, “Jihadis use the Internet for everything: propaganda, operations, defense, and offense. We see jihadi messaging moving into social networks. Terrorist groups use the Internet for fundraising, with ISIS asking people to donate via bitcoins.”
In the workshop entitled “Lone Wolves and Loose Networks,” Dr. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said, “Lone wolf terrorism is undoubtedly increasing, and the reason is terrorist groups’ mastery of social media to recruit people and mobilize them to act.”
As in every conference, a memorial ceremony was held for the victims of 9/11 and terrorism worldwide. Israeli Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said Iran was attempting to position itself as a regional superpower and "is an imminent threat to Israel. We have seen them increase their actions of terror against Israel, and we are preparing to act against this.” Daniel B. Shapiro, U.S. ambassador to Israel, said that “the fight against terrorism requires partnership, and there is an exemplary one between the U.S. and Israel. We share intelligence and technologies, and work closely to safeguard citizens against terrorism. Our robust security relationship with Israel will continue, and will not change under the nuclear agreement with Iran.”
A special luncheon and roundtable discussion was held in partnership with the Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung in honor of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Israeli-German diplomatic relations, on the subject “Europe and Israel: Converging Terror Threats and Imperatives for Counter-Terrorism Cooperation.”
The conference ended with a simulation dealing with the threat of a terrorism campaign in Europe. In the scenario, a group of Belgian ISIS fighters about to return from Syria are planning a strategic terrorist attack within Europe. The players, representing decision makers in Belgium, grappled with multiple dilemmas before choosing to forgo air strikes in Syria in favor of arresting and prosecuting the terrorists, who were Belgian citizens, on Belgian territory. The Belgian prime minister was played by Brian M. Jenkins, senior adviser to the president of the RAND Corporation, the defense minister was played by Bulgarian Ambassador to Israel Dr. Dimitar Mihaylov, the justice minister was represented by Dr. Daphné Richemond-Barak, head of the Terrorism and International Law Desk at ICT, and the interior minister was played by Michèle Coninsx, president of Eurojust, an EU agency that deals with judicial reform. Lt. Col. Dr. Bryan Price, director of the Combating Terrorism Center at the West Point Military Academy, played the national security adviser, while Lt. Col. Edward Brady of the U.S. Army War College represented the armed forces chief of staff.
During the conference, a ceremony was held to unveil of the plaque of the Steven E. Stern Office of the Director of ICT. Jonathan Davis, IDC’s vice president for External Relations and head of the Raphael Recanati International School, raised a glass in honor of Steven and Bonnie Stern, while Boaz Ganor called Steven “a great friend, who is curious, creative, Zionist, and intelligent, and whom we are so fortunate to have as a friend.”
Ganor also praised Igal Jusidman, representative of Keren Daniel, who was at the conference. “The success of the conference, as well as many other activities of the ICT, could not have been possible without our partnership with Keren Daniel. We are grateful for their support, friendship and advice throughout the years,” Ganor said.