Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Israel Frustrated with a New Kind of Terrorism

Israeli security officials are at a loss as to how to prevent a new kind of terrorist attack: the lone terrorist. There have been three such attacks in Jerusalem in recent months. The Shin Bet (Israeli intelligence agency) has had success in preventing attacks by organized groups because there have been sufficient communication leaks within their ranks for Israeli authorities to keep informed about their plans. But when an individual decides, probably spontaneously, to go after civilians, there is no way to prevent it.

So Prime Minister Olmert and others are discussing the possibility of reinstating punitive measures. One of these is the razing of terrorists' homes. One of the problems with these measures is that it is sometimes difficult for Shin Bet to determine whether an attack was a terrorist attack. One of the methods for making this determination is whether or not an organization takes credit for the attack.

With nobody taking credit for the last three attacks in Jerusalem, punitive measures have been put on hold. This is a double-edged sword because it could pave the way for organizations to plan terror attacks for which they don't take credit, thereby minimizing the Israeli response. However, if Israel decides to raze the family homes of lone attackers, they risk the ire of an already annoyed international community.

Haaretz says:
In recent talks among security officials, additional steps for deterring East Jerusalem terrorists were discussed. Past ideas were revived, including that of expelling the families of terrorists involved in serious attacks inside the city, and revoking the Israeli identity cards of their immediate relatives.

Such measures would require legislative changes, and legal experts expressed doubts whether such proposals would be approved by the Supreme Court.

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