The Honorable MK Avi Dichter, Chairman, Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Knesset; Former Minister of Public Security and Home Front Defense & Former Director of the Israeli Security Agency (ISA), Israel
The session was part of the ICT's 16th World Summit on Counter-Terrorism: "Unpuzzling Terrorism". MK Dichter spoke about the magnitude of the Iranian threat, claiming the country has aspirations to spearhead the Middle East and gain influence in all the various conflicts and groups active in the region. He notes that terrorism is increasingly transnational and religious-based and considerations such as "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" should be taken with a grain of salt.
MK Dichter spoke of his whereabouts during September 11th and the information he was receiving and questioned how we identify situations of instability to prevent such horrific, abominable terror incidents. MK Dichter claimed that in the last 6 years an earthquake has been taking place in the Middle East. In this kind of environment, who can actually predict, let alone understand, the kind of chaos that is happening? The conclusion of this chaos is a simple math equation: ii+hhh+mb=Pandemonium (Iran and ISIS+ Hezbollah, Hamas, Houthis+ Muslim Brotherhood=Pandemonium). So how did we, Israel, create deterrence that is not so bad?
What is propelling such a superpower like Iran to deal with Israel, which is not a big threat to Iran? Dichter believes that Iran has aspirations to spearhead the region of the Middle East and Israel is the common denominator in between the 500 million Muslims living in the Middle East. Iran began using proxies to gain power and territory, including Hezbollah and Hamas in the last 5 years.
We all talk about ISIS being the biggest threat, but we see Iran with control in Syria fighting the Syrian rebels instead of ISIS. We also see them with control in Iraq because we assumed that Iranian Shiite control would bring about more stability, but we have yet to see that. In Gaza, Iran has become the number one sponsor of both the global jihad and Hamas—they are sending arms, training, instructions, and money. Additionally, Hamas has also become an accessory of ISIS- passing capabilities into ISIS in Sinai.
There has been a change in terror; less nationalist terror and more religious terror against Christians and Jews. We even see religious fighting between the sects of Islam, major or minor. Moreover, we see extremist Muslims, like Hamas, trying to connect the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Temple Mount, making both akin to Mecca and Medina in order to create an overwhelming feeling of entitlement to Jerusalem.
When you have transnational terrorism that exports terror around the world, Israel, unlike Europe and the US, is more familiar with it. We have seen officials, primarily in Europe, make statements and pass laws to attempt to ban Muslim practices and take away agency from Muslims living there, such as the burkini ban. We should not be focusing on the unimportant issues such as that. Here in Israel we are familiar with terrorist groups, especially Muslim terrorist groups, but we do not deal with nitty-gritty matters like how a woman is dressed, especially not on the beach.
In order to properly fight terrorism, the main weapon is intelligence. However, we know intelligence is limited in its ability to prevent terrorism. The name of the game, other than intelligence is the arrest of relevant individuals—who provide the intelligence. The barrel of terrorism has a bottom—there is an end to terror. Israel has proven that they know how to deal with terror. When you come to counter terrorism of this kind, based on ideology, you have to study where it exists. We have understood that ISIS is a big, scary terrorist group easily capable of spreading their message across the world through social media platforms.
If you want to destroy an entity like ISIS, there is nothing you can achieve by attacks and bombings, though that is not to say that we should cease doing that. If we extricate one element from the equation, the more dooming element is Iran. We missed out on an opportunity 18 months ago when the deal with Iran only touched on nuclear issues and not on the financial stream from Iran of weapons supply to various terrorist groups.
Israel should not, in any way, be considered the home front for the west fighting terrorist groups in the Middle East—this is a problem occurring linguistically and operationally.
Every day of the year, we should bear in mind that Al Qaeda is involved in a confrontation with Hezbollah and the Syrian forces. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. This seems to made sense, perhaps there is something good there. But be sure to listen to your enemies in their own language. There is no phrase like this in Arabic, the phrase is much more like “I and my brother are against my cousin, and I and my cousin are against the foreigners.” And we will always be the foreigners in their eyes even if they are fighting our enemies, ISIS and Hezbollah.