Author: Doaa’ Elnakhala


Table of Contents

1     Political and Security Context 2

2     Nature of the Threat 4

3     Israeli Counter-terrorism Institutions. 6

4     Israeli Counter-terrorism Legislation. 10

5     Israeli Counter-terrorism Strategy and Tactics. 12

6     Conclusion. 20


1     Political and Security Context

Israeli counter-terrorism experience has developed in the context of a rather complex territorial, ethnic and religious conflict with the Palestinians. Unlike terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State (IS), the Palestinian armed have specific and small-scale goals, identified as self-determination, liberation from occupation, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Being in confrontation with such groups as early as the 1950s, the Israeli law enforcement agencies, military and intelligence community have accumulated a unique experience fighting non-state violence. This resulted in a sophisticated counter-terrorism institutional design and a significant arsenal of counter-terrorism tactics. Such characteristics are further strengthened by cutting-edge technologies, trainings and other capabilities.

The background to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict dates back to the late 19th century when Palestine became the focus of the Jewish state-building project and attracted waves of Jewish immigration. The Palestinian Arabs, who constituted the majority in the population of historic Palestine, became uncomfortable with the volume of Jews moving into the country. During the British Mandate (1920-1948), the Arab leaders accused the British of conspiring with the Jews. British support during the mandate made it militarily and politically feasible for Israel to be created in 1948.[1] The establishment of the State of Israel was a major blow to the Palestinian and Arab national aspirations.

Consequently, violent non-state organizations started to appear after the creation of Israel.[2] Palestine for some of these groups extends from the Jordan River in the east to the Mediterranean in the west, which requires the elimination of the State of Israel. This factor has made the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis an existential one. Palestinian guerrilla attacks against Israel started in the 1950s when Israel faced waves of attacks by the “Fedayeen,”[3] who mostly infiltrated Israel’s borders from neighboring Arab countries.

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1.1  Nature of the Conflict

In addition to being a territorial dispute, there is also a religious element. Israel is a Jewish state and the majority of Palestinians are either Muslims or Christians. Additionally, a central issue in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is disputed sacred places. For instance, the Temple Mount to the Jews and Haram al-Sharif to the Muslims are sacred places of the utmost centrality to their respective religions. The problem is that these sacred places share the same location. After the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, control over the city’s holy sites has become an issue. An agreement was reached on these sites including the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque, concluding that the Dome of the Rock would continue being an Islamic Waqf, or trust. The Jews would be allowed in as tourists and would not be allowed to pray. This agreement was not respected at all times.

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1.2  Proliferation of Insurgent Groups

The conflict with Palestinian groups escalated with Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967. Different Palestinian militant groups launched attacks against Israel from the Palestinian Territories, including Hamas, Fatah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), and more recently the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC).[4]

While these organizations have different ideological leanings, they all identify the liberation of Palestine and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state as their goals. Some of these organizations, especially larger and older ones, have witnessed shifts in their strategies. For example, Fatah leadership shifted its techniques to deal with Israel from the armed struggle, especially in the 1960s and 70s, to peace talks in the 1980s. At present, Hamas is one of the most militarily active and efficient Palestinian militant groups.

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2     Nature of the Threat

Until the early 1970s, conventional threats to Israel emanated from Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan. Egypt and Jordan are at peace with Israel and Syria and Iraq have witnessed domestic challenges that diminished intentions or capabilities to attack Israel using conventional means. In the past few decades, the primary source of threat emanated from non-state actors. Today, Hamas is the most threatening of actors.

Additionally, there is a wide perception among average Israelis and politicians that the Arabs, and the Palestinians, are set to destroy the state of Israel and “throw the Jews into the sea.” This perception surely has its roots in the rhetoric employed by the Arab states on the eve of the 1967 war. Although the Arab armies lost the war and Israel was not destroyed, the fear and the sense of insecurity persists. Israeli politicians have repeatedly reminded their citizens of this. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman emphasized that he is not willing to talk to Hamas because he “cannot speak to a person who states daily that he hates me, wants to destroy and annihilate Israel, and throw us into the sea.” Despite Israel’s military might, there is a constant sense of “collective insecurity and fear.” Various surveys demonstrated those feelings.

Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups are motivated by long-term fundamental goals, including ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a Palestinian independent state, as well as short-term instrumental and operational goals that pave the way to the long-term ones, such as bombings, rocket attacks and tunneling (for the purpose of importing weapons and attacking Israel) that pave the way for the long-term goals. The persistence of their long-term goals keeps Hamas and other groups continuously motivated to attack despite Israeli deterrence policies.

Hamas today is the most threatening of the Palestinian groups espousing violence, primarily because it alone has developed war capabilities. In the past Hamas relied on roadside and settlement attacks, as well as suicide bombings. In 2001, Hamas and other militant groups started to use homemade rockets to attack Israel. While these rockets were rudimentary and barely caused any damage, recently, they became more effective by virtue of their increased range and destructive capabilities. Relying on the tunnels under the Rafah border, Hamas imported both military training and materials to improve its arsenal. It also imported better range Chinese, Syrian and Iranian rockets. Furthermore, military confrontations between Hamas and Israel proved Hamas’s tunnel threat. Tunnel attacks resulted in the death of 13 Israeli soldiers over a 50-day war in 2014. Knowing that Israel invested much resources in destroying the tunnels network, the efficiency of such attacks in 2014 revealed the Israeli failure in eliminating such threat. In addition to its old tactics, Hamas may introduce new ones, such as drone strikes, naval commandos and cyber warfare against the Israeli army.

2015 and 2016 have witnessed a wave of knifing and ramming attacks mostly by young Palestinians in the West Bank, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Between October 2015 and March 2016 alone, 211 stabbings of Israelis have been reported, in addition to 83 shootings and 42 car-ramming attacks, responsible for the death of 30 Israelis and two American citizens. During the same period, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed, of whom more than 130 died while allegedly carrying out attacks on Israelis. Hamas claimed a few of these attacks although many involved attackers had no political affiliation. According to a confidential EU heads of mission report on Jerusalem, there is a “growing Palestinian alienation and marginalization, a loss of hope in the possibility of positive change, deep mutual mistrust and a sense of loss of security among both communities,” which could be behind the hostilities.

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3     Israeli Counter-terrorism Institutions

Similar to other countries, the three Israeli security agencies, i.e. the army, the police and intelligence agencies, are involved in counter-terrorism practices.

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3.1  Intelligence

Intelligence is of prime importance for Israeli counter-terrorism. According to Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, “Intelligence constitutes the first line of defence.” As a result, there were Jewish efforts to institutionalize intelligence services, even before 1948. Today, Israel has three main intelligence agencies, a domestic (Shin Bet), an international (Mossad), and a military (Aman).

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3.1.1 Shin Bet

Shin Bet, also known as Shabak, is in charge of preventing domestic terrorism and political subversion. It is also responsible for internal security and intelligence, prevention of terrorist acts, counterintelligence, security of officials, aviation, and other strategic assets, and security clearances. The Shin Bet reports directly to the Prime Minister. The powers of the Shin Bet doubled after the occupation of the Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, as it became responsible for preventing terrorist activity by residents of the Territories. The Statute of the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) of 2002 was the first comprehensive legal framework for the Shin Bet. The ISA Statute establishes the institutional status and powers of ISA, its functions, control and supervision, and its unique aspects.

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3.1.2  Mossad

Israel also has a foreign intelligence agency, known as the Mossad and was established in 1951. With headquarters in Tel Aviv, in the late 1980s the Mossad staff was estimated between 1,500 and 2,000. The Mossad is in charge of collection of human intelligence, covert action, and counter-terrorism. Its main tasks include collection of intelligence against enemy states and preventing terror against Israeli and Jewish targets. Although details of the internal organization of the agency remain obscure, the Mossad has a Collections Department, a Political Action and Liaison Department, a Special Operations Division, a Psychological Warfare Department, a Research Department, and a Technology Department.

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3.1.3  Aman

The military intelligence, Aman, is the largest intelligence organization in Israel. It has more recruits, assets, and analytic capabilities than its sister intelligence agencies. Its staff is estimated by 7,000 personnel. Aman controls most signals intelligence and aerial reconnaissance assets. Moreover, Aman collects human intelligence and commands Sayeret Maktal, Israel’s primary counter-terrorism and intelligence-gathering entity. Aman represents Israel in a very exclusive club of states that design, launch and operate espionage satellites. Aman produces comprehensive national intelligence estimates for the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, as well as daily intelligence reports, risk of war estimates, target studies on neighboring Arab countries, and communications intercepts. Aman also conducts cross-border agent operations.

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3.2  The Israeli National Police (INP)

INP was established as a brigade in the Israeli army. INP operates within the areas under Israeli jurisdiction, though until the mid-1990s, it also operated inside the Palestinian towns. The primary responsibility of INP is to maintain public safety by preventing crimes, investigating and clearing crimes, identifying offenders and bringing them to justice, supervising and controlling traffic, preserving public order and safety, providing prison security, and maintaining homeland security. The INP received their official mandate of responsibility for homeland security in 1974, following an attack at a school in Ma’alot. The government also officially assigned the police with “internal security” responsibilities within the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The overarching goal of INP is to allow Israeli citizens to continue their normal routines despite terrorist threats. INP successes in counter-terrorism encouraged foreign police forces to come to Israel for training. However, intensively policing public spaces and life in Israel has repeatedly led to infringement of human rights, which placed the Israeli force under investigation and severe criticism.

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3.2.1  Structure

All INP units are under the command of the Commissioner of Police, who is appointed by the government based on recommendation from the Minister of Public Security. INP is divided into three levels with six geographical districts: Northern, Tel-Aviv, Central, West Bank, Jerusalem, and Southern districts. Each District is divided into two to four sub-districts, under which there are local police stations. These levels also represent the hierarchy of command, and all are subordinate to the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of the national police. Generally, the INP has two organizational units: the regular police force, usually known as the Blue Police, and the border police. It also has units like the Civil Guards, the border police and Yamam.

The “Civil Guard,” the largest voluntary organization in Israel, was formed in 1974 with the goal of fighting terrorism and crime. Armed by the police, the Civil Guard volunteers assist the INP in all domains and all over the country, including patrolling, setting roadblocks, and securing local and major events, schools and public transportation. Moreover, the Civil Guard is considered an important instrument to foster police-community relations.

As a subordinate of the INP, the Israeli border police division, established in 1950, is commissioned to protect ports, border towns and the zones between the Palestinian and Israeli areas. It also functions as an auxiliary for the military to preserve order in the Palestinian Territories. The border guards formed about one third of the INP personnel around 2010 and are recruited as part of the national military draft. Border guards have a counter-terrorism unit, known as Yamam, established in 1974. It carries out offensive missions, such as the interception and arrests of terrorists and special missions like hostage rescue.

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3.2.2  INP Tasks

INP work within a highly coordinated and centralized system, through which counter-terrorism functions are delegated to subordinate levels of command. The police identify their counter-terrorism role under three broad tasks: 1) Early prevention, interdiction, and treatment of the sources of terrorism; 2) response activities once the attack has been launched; 3) response activities once the attack has occurred. Additionally, the police assist with investigations of terrorist attacks, through its Identification and Forensic Science Unit. Part of INP’s strategy extend to defeating the goals of terrorism by strengthening the resolve of the public and providing a context in which terrorism can be placed in the margins of daily life.

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3.3  The Military

The Israeli army, also known as Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), ranks among the most battle-tested militaries in the world. Its objectives are “to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the State of Israel, deter all enemies, and curb all forms of terrorism that threaten daily life.” Its main tasks include protecting the peace agreements; ensuring overall security in the West Bank; fighting terrorism inside and outside Israel, and maintaining a deterrent capability to prevent the outbreak of hostilities. The Israeli army has three service branches: ground forces, air force, and navy, which function under the unified command of the Chief of the General Staff, who is responsible to the Minister of Defense. The military is not legally empowered to engage in ordinary police functions within the borders of the State of Israel. Yet, in the Palestinian areas, which are under military occupation, the military has primary responsibilities for anti-terrorism activities. Nevertheless, the IDF uses assistance from the national police.

One of the unique features of the experience of the Israeli military is its presence in the Occupied Territories, which requires direct involvement in fighting non-conventional battles. During the popular riots of the Palestinian first Intifada of the late 1980s, the operations of the Israeli army were conventional missions that were quickly switched to imposing curfews, administering prisons for the detention of Palestinians and suppressing public protests. The IDF also established and manned checkpoints between the Palestinian Territories and Israel to prevent attackers from entering Israel. It has learned how to close areas, control traffic and established new units to suppress demonstrations. The first Intifada motivated the IDF to consider terrorism a top priority.

The second Palestinian Intifada, launched in September 2000, witnessed use of fatal tactics by the Palestinian militants, including suicide bombings and short-range rockets and mortars. Within this context, the Israeli army engaged by employing more lethal weapons and tactics, like F-15I and F-16s and AH-64-A Apache, AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters, and Merkava tanks. However, this time, the IDF has adjusted to fighting an urban warfare.

Within the Palestinian Territories, the IDF have achieved successes at the tactical level but hardly any at the strategic level. Specifically, it succeeded at using targeted killings against the leaderships of Fatah, Hamas, and Hezbollah but failed in deterring terrorism or eliminating the motivation of Palestinian violent organizations to attacking Israel. Additionally, some argue that long involvement of the Israeli army in combating terrorism for depletes its conventional fighting mechanisms. Moreover, involvement of the military can generate indigenous resentment that terrorist groups can exploit. It can also encourage human rights abuses that are antithetical to liberal democratic norms.

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4     Israeli Counter-terrorism Legislation

In general, the legal framework of Israeli counter-terrorism relies on three main pillars:

  • The “state of emergency” was initially declared by the British Mandate government and it enacted legislations that permit preventive and punitive measures. Since the creation of Israel in 1948, the state of emergency has been renewed every year by the Knesset. The state of emergency enables the government to issue regulations that override existing legislation.
  • The Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945 of the British Mandate for Palestine. The regulations established military tribunals to try civilians, allowed searches and seizures, prohibited publications, and permitted house-demolitions, indefinite administrative detention, sealing off particular territories, and imposing curfews. Over time, the law was amended. These regulations are intensively applied the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
  • The Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1948 went through several amendments. This Act defined a terrorist organization as a “body of persons resorting in its activities to acts of violence calculated to cause death or injury to a person or to threats of such acts of violence.” It created categories for involvement in a terrorism and outlined government counter-actions. Finally, it addressed judicial proceedings and punishment of terrorism suspects, including trial in a military court.

One of the main issues taken against these laws is that they can be used to justify collective punishment, such as deportations, home demolitions, curfews and administrative detention. Some of these laws, e.g. Defense (Emergency) Regulations also starkly restrict freedoms, e.g. freedom of expression. Moreover, there has been a lengthy debate in Israel about the perpetual state of emergency, with opponents claiming that the Israeli authorities draw powers outside the framework of law, particularly in practices like administrative detention. Moreover, Israel has used the state of emergency to deem several Palestinian NGOs in Israel illegal.

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4.1  New Israeli Anti-Terror Law

On 21 April 2010, the Ministry of Justice published a comprehensive counter-terrorism memorandum bill. This bill is intended to provide the authorities with counter-terrorism tools needed and to coordinate the relevant legislations. This comprehensive legislation is based on the assumption that terrorism is a complex activity that requires a multi-faceted and robust response. In mid 2016, the first reading of the new Anti-Terror Law was approved by the Knesset in mid 2016. This law is heavily criticized as it vaguely defines terrorism, does not distinguish between attacks on civilians from those against soldiers and provides loose criteria for designation of NGOs as terrorist. The legislation also allows administrative detention and provides the Shin Bet with wide-ranging powers to hack into private citizens’ computers, in violation of privacy.

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5     Israeli Counter-terrorism Strategy and Tactics

Israel has developed a variety of measures to combat terrorism in the hope that these tactics would result in fulfilling its counter-terrorism strategy, i.e. deterrence of terrorism.

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5.1  Intelligence

Intelligence collection and analysis are the first steps in counter-terrorism, and are, therefore, essential in prevention and deterrence of terrorism. In Israel, the first priority is placed on intelligence, then on counter-terrorism operations, and finally on defense and protection. Israel has developed a highly coordinated and efficient intelligence apparatus. Israeli government agencies work continuously to identify terrorist operatives and cells, employing human and technical means. Intelligence classifies threats into three categories, a. imminent and require immediate attention, b. less probable but could emerge later, and c. unlikely but still possible.

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5.1.1 HUMINT

The Israeli public is a key player in this domain. Average Israelis foil more than 80% of attempted terrorist attacks. Moreover, Israeli government agencies gather human intelligence on terrorism by deploying undercover agents in the Palestinian areas and by recruiting local informants inside or close to terrorist organizations. This is in addition to Palestinian informants who cooperate with Israel in exchange for cash incentives, non-monetary benefits, e.g. building permits or cab licenses. Interrogation during detention is another important source of human intelligence. Israeli security agencies launch frequent police operations inside Palestinian areas to detain and interrogate Palestinian militants. In fact, interrogations provide information on the activities of militant groups. Though several are usually identified as torture by human rights organizations, interrogation methods in Israel use threats, coercion, and sometimes rewards.

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5.1.2  Intelligence Technology

Israel has developed sophisticated technologies for detecting explosives and arms at a distance, electronic eavesdropping and signals intelligence, and visual intelligence with unmanned aerial vehicles. Nevertheless, Israeli intelligence agencies give priority to human intelligence over high-tech methods. Although a satellite image can reveal the location of a terrorist training camp, it cannot provide insights into the thinking of operatives planning an attack.

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5.2  Disruption of Terrorist Networks and Infrastructures

Israel launches counter-terrorism operations to disrupt the terrorist infrastructure and networks in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel believes that aggressive counter-terrorism campaigns can weaken the morale of the terrorists, hamper enlistment efforts, and deter collaborators.

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5.2.1  Limited and Extensive invasions

After signing a peace agreement with the Palestinians, Israel withdrew from the Palestinian city centers in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. However, following the escalation of violence in late 2000, Israel launched two sorts of operations. The first is limited operations, which are quick incursions aiming at the killing of or arresting wanted activists, attacking a terrorist structure, etc. The second type of operations is more extensive and lasted for weeks or months. The latter involved partial reoccupation of Palestinian cities or areas, e.g. Operation Defensive Shield of 2002 in the West Bank and several operations in Gaza Strip in 2006, 2008-9, 2012, and 2014. In all these operations, Israel identified terrorist infrastructures and eliminating the threat imposed by rockets and tunnels as goals. During these incursions, Israel also arrested, deported and assassinated activists, destroyed infrastructures, and imposed curfews and closures.

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5.2.2  Assassinations/Targeted Killings

Both the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the Shin Bet have the final say in a targeted killing. The Shin Bet approves the intelligence to make sure it is accurate and that there will be no or few noncombatant deaths. The IDF decides whether or not to fire the missile. Shin Bet and the IDF enjoyed autonomy until the Supreme Court and the political leaders became more involved in early 2000s.

Israel used a variety of methods to execute targeted killings, including booby-traps, bombs, F-16s, helicopter and tank fired missiles. Over time, armed drone aircraft became more important. Assassinations or targeted killings of terrorist leaders and bomb makers, usually executed by undercover units of the IDF and Mossad, are particularly controversial in Israel.

In early 2002, an IDF judge advocate-general ruled that the assassination of terrorists is legal when (1) well-supported information exists that the suspect has organized terror attacks in the past and is planning to carry out another one in the future; (2) appeals to the Palestinian Authority to arrest the terrorist have been ignored; (3) attempts by Israeli troops to arrest the suspect have failed; and (4) the killing is not intended as retribution for past acts of terror but is designed to prevent an incipient attack that is likely to inflict multiple casualties.

Israeli targeted killings revealed several practical drawbacks. First, they impose diplomatic costs for Israel’s international reputation, especially if innocent persons are killed, which happens frequently. Second, targeted killings impose intelligence costs because each assassination requires precise, real-time information. Third, the benefits of targeted killings may be only temporary and attacks by Palestinians may follow, sometimes at a high rate. Additionally, on several occasions, Israel targeted non-combatant and moderate leaders of various Palestinian militant groups, indicating that targeted killings may be a sign of frustration and of officials’ need to demonstrate action by merely assassinating easy targets.

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5.2.3  Deportations

Israel has repeatedly resorted to deportations in response to terrorism. Nevertheless, most cases of deportation have offered new learning opportunities and were grounds for building new alliances for the deportees and their organizations. It is also challenged under International Law and may increase motivation for more attacks. The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, however, has argued, deportation substantially reduces terrorism and requested the attorney general to approve deporting relatives of terrorists from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip.

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5.2.4  Home-demolitions

House-demolition is a common practice, usually implemented by the Israeli military, in combating and deterring terrorism. Israel increased use of house-demolitions in the first Palestinian Intifada (1987-1992) and the second Palestinian Intifada (started in 2000). Similar to several other counter-terrorism measures, house-demolitions are debated inside Israel and internationally. The practice is legally challenged by human rights organizations and is seen as a form of collective punishment.

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5.2.5  Detention

According to B’tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, as of August 2016, there were almost 6,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons for security reasons. The number of Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli prisons varied over time. It usually peaks during times of escalations. The figure reached a high in 2007 with more than 9,000 detainees. Once a Palestinian is detained for terrorism offences, s/he is either tried before an Israeli military court or is detained administratively.

Administrative detention is detention without charge or trial authorized by an administrative order rather than by judicial decree. Generally, international law permits administrative detention but only under rigid restrictions. In cases of administrative detention, the General Security Services decides that the intelligence information cannot be shared with an open court of law, and thus the concerned person can be detained administratively after approval from the Israeli military legal advisor. Then, the West Bank or Gaza Strip military commander signs a detention order. Soon after the order is signed the person is brought before a military judge for a review of the intelligence leading to the detention, rather than a trial. If approved, the detention order is reviewed by a higher-ranking military judge and petitions can be filed to the High Court of Justice. The first six month of administrative detention are indefinitely renewable but each extension is reviewable by an independent judiciary.

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5.3  Control Measures

Several Israeli counter-measures are intended to control terrorism. These tactics help the authorities separate the Israelis from the Palestinians, which would limit terrorist access to their targets. Tight controls direct crossings to certain points, which would facilitate detection and aborting terrorist operations. The Israeli measures of control make it also easier to close up the Palestinian areas in case of terrorist warnings or right after a terrorist attack, which would help in hunting and arresting suspects.

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5.3.1  Barriers

After a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings in the early 1990s, Israel launched its first barrier to separate itself from the Palestinians by mid-1990s. The Israeli government built a hi-tech, militarized fence on the borders with the Gaza Strip to stop Palestinian attacks. Finished by mid-1995, the fence was equipped with a sophisticated system of buffer zones, magnetic cards and permits that tightly controlled the movement. The barrier, which has four crossings: Erez, Karni, Kisufim and Sufa, was also supplied with sensors, surveillance and military technologies. Israel expanded the detection, surveillance and punishment technologies along the barrier in 2001 and added automated and remotely controlled machine guns, ground sensors, drones, and rocket radars along the borders in 2005.

The West Bank barrier, launched in mid-2001, received much more attention. The latter barrier was critiqued for deviating from the Green Line,[5] not separating the Israelis from Palestinians and infringement of human rights. Furthermore, the barrier in the West Bank runs mostly over Palestinian lands. Similar to that of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank barrier is surrounded by an intrusion-detection system on both sides. In the middle, the barrier has a wire fence with video cameras and sensors. A stretch of sand or soft dirt strip runs along the Israeli side to catch footprints of intruders. Also on the Israeli side, a military road runs along the sand strip to patrol the barrier. On the Palestinian side, there is a ditch to block vehicles. Ones completed the West Bank barrier will run over 700 km. Today, the construction is on halt at 400km length. In highly populated areas, the barrier is made of straps of cement to block sniper attacks.

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5.3.2  Checkpoints and Closures

Israel has developed a system of permits, checkpoints, roadblocks and closures. Although these policies predated barrier building, they became part of the barrier regime described in the previous section. In early 1991, every Palestinian from the Palestinian Territories was required to hold a personal exit permit to enter Israel and East Jerusalem. This permit policy became more restrictive in 1993 and even more so in 2000. After signing the Oslo Agreement in 1993, Israel introduced its system of general closures, which sealed off access to Israel and East Jerusalem, and was enforced through a series of checkpoints. Israel’s closure policy now includes: 1) internal closures, which restrict movement inside the Palestinian areas; 2) external closures, which restrict movement between the Palestinian areas and East Jerusalem and Israel; and 3) external international closures, which restrict access from the West Bank to Jordan and from Gaza to Egypt. These policies affect the entire Palestinian population.

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5.3.3  Cooperation with the Palestinian Authority (PA)

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is commissioned to administer the Palestinian areas, maintain order in these areas and cooperate with Israel on security matters. Functions of the PA security apparatus include fighting terrorism, in coordination with Israeli counter-parts. Security cooperation between Israel and the PA in the second half of 1990s dealt a major blow to the activities of Hamas and PIJ militants. Yassir Arafat’s[6] security apparatus suppressed these groups inside the Gaza Strip and later the West Bank. The PA helps Israel police the Palestinian Territories, detect and arrest terrorist networks and provide information to the Israeli security agencies. This restricted freedom of Hamas and PIJ to train and import weapons and bomb materials. In fact, one of the significant differences between the Gaza Strip and West Bank today is that the there is a security agreement with Israel involving the latter but not the former.

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5.4   The Role of the Population in Combating Terrorism

The Israelis have become active participants in foiling attacks and responding to them. The security apparatuses educate the public and improve routine security preparedness through periodic trainings and dissemination of information. A huge number of calls are received by different security agencies from the public. The Israeli security agencies take each call seriously, in part to encourage the participation of civilians. In turn, the government’s risk communication with the public on terrorism-related issues is up-to-date, balanced, precise and honest. The Civilian Guard, which are discussed above, also play a key role in raising awareness about terrorism amongst the civilian population.

Moreover, the Israeli government has spent a considerable effort to counter the demoralizing effects of terrorism by strengthening the psychological coping skills of ordinary citizens. Consequently, Israeli terrorism experts regularly visit schools throughout the country and provide educational programs for students of different age groups. This method is based on the belief that education guides towards familiarity with terrorism, which will lower the level of anxiety and foil one of the terrorists’ principal aims; instilling fear and undermining the personal security of civilians.

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5.5   Defensive Measures

5.5.1  Commercial Aviation Security

After being exposed to flight hijacking and airline counter attacks in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Israel has developed a complex security regime around its airports and airliners. As of late 2000s, El Al, the Israeli national airline, has a security budget of roughly $80 million, covering Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv and the airliners themselves. Ben Gurion airport is protected by a deep defense system that begins with a checkpoint on the single access road, where armed guards examine vehicles and question suspicious-looking drivers or passengers. Additional security officials continuously monitor the entrances to the terminal, scanning the crowds inside, and frequently checking wastebaskets for explosive devices. Established as early 1970s, El Al’s passenger screening system relies on psychological profiling techniques backed up with high-technology equipment. This system has been highly effective, which is evident in lack of attacks against Israeli airlines or airports for a long time.

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5.5.2  Defense against Chemical and Biological Attacks

Israel has implemented the world’s most sophisticated civil defense program against potential chemical and biological attacks. As of mid-1980s, the Israeli government provided the citizens with a free kit of an individually fitted gas mask and an auto-injector, containing nerve-agent antidotes. Following the 1991 Gulf War, the construction of a “protective room” – that is bomb resistant and capable of being sealed airtight – has become a requirement of any new building. Most of these rooms are equipped with electricity and a phone connection. A static radio station, which citizens are instructed to turn on at night, is dedicated to commencing a live broadcast in case of a chemical attacks. Furthermore, the health authorities have stockpiled all potentially needed vaccines and antibiotics in case of a chemical or biological attack.

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5.6  Counter-terrorism Technology, a cross-cutting variable

Over time, Israel has developed a cutting-edge security and military industry that markets counter-terror technology, products, and services worldwide. Several of these technologies are employed in the above described tactics, as well as exported to other countries. Some scholars describe Israel as the “Capital of Homeland Security.” The Israeli Homeland security and surveillance products and services aim at helping governments conduct their operations more efficiently and cost-effectively. After the 9/11 attacks, these products and services became on high demand in the international market not only amongst governments but also businesses.[7]

In recent years, Israel has consistently been ranked among the top ten military exporters worldwide.  Israeli security company contractors have provided security services during large events, such as the 2008 Beijing Olympic games, and boast about the number and diversity of their clients.[8] Immediately after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, an Israeli security company gave an offer of terrorist-tracking software to help flag terrorist cells by tracing and connecting the dots in the extremist communities.

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6     Conclusion

Unlike other liberal democracies, the Israeli involvement in counter-terrorism should be examined within the context of a rather complex territorial and religious conflict. In contrast to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS, the Palestinian violent groups involved in attacking Israel have specific and small-scale goals, including self-determination, liberation from occupation, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Israel perceives the threat from these groups as existential.

The Israeli intelligence community, military and police have accumulated a long experience in fighting terrorism. Overtime, they have developed and adapted their perception of terrorism and their response. This resulted in a rather efficient and highly sophisticated counter-terrorism institutional design. These institutions are backed with cutting-edge technologies, trainings and other capabilities.

So far, Israel has been relying on a legal framework inherited from the British Mandate in Palestine in combating terrorism. Over time, however, it has developed its own laws and is currently ratifying its Anti-terrorism law. However, these laws seem to be problematic as they severely restrict freedom of association and expression among the Palestinian minority in Israel and the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Some of these laws legalize collective punishment, such as curfews, and detention without trial, such as administrative detention. Most importantly, these laws have failed to provide a clear and fair definition of what constitute terrorism.

Studies of counter-terrorism refer to Israel as a leading example for other liberal democracies. In combating terrorism, Israel’s main goal is deterrence, in the sense of dissuading terrorist organizations, their activists, their leaders and their aids from continuing to attack Israel. Israel did so by adopting both offensive and defensive tactics. These tactics were grouped here under intelligence gathering, disruption of the terrorist networks and infrastructures, control measures, mobilization of the civilian population and defensive measures.

Average Israelis play a central role in countering terrorism. This seems to be one of the very, if not the most, effective tactics employed by the Israeli government. In fact, terrorism could be defeated by demonstrating its inability to spread fear and demoralize the public. The Israeli experience shows the potential success of this tactic. However, one has to keep in mind that this tactic would work best if the goal of the concerned violent groups is merely to spread fear among the population, which is not the case for the Israeli example.

The seemingly endless cycle of attacks and counter attacks between 1994 and 2004, particularly the suicide bombings, led to the realization that deterrence is not working with the Palestinian violent organizations. Although Israel’s offensive and defensive operations had great achievements in thwarting suicide attacks between 2000 and 2003, they did not at all decrease the level of motivation of a terrorist to attack. In fact, empirical studies demonstrate that sometimes the number of (attempted) attacks increased. One reason could be that none of the policies adopted by Israel addresses what motivated involved groups and individuals.

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[1] Despite British support, different resourceful and well-trained Jewish militias turned against the British and perpetrated terrorist attacks against them. Ironically, these militias were labelled in the 1930s and 1940s as terrorist. They served as the core for several Israeli state institutions, including the military.

[2] Before 1948, some local armed Palestinian-Arab groups attacked Jewish interests in Palestine. Yet, most of their work was not coordinated nor organized. Additionally, they had much less sophisticated military training and equipment than the Jewish militias. In fact, research on such groups revealed that the Palestinian armed groups of the 1930s and 1940s had no military training at all. Members were actually Palestinian males who owned rifles.

[3] Arabic for those who are willing to sacrifice their life, usually for their homeland.

[4] Fatah and PFLP were established by the Palestinian diaspora between the 1948 and 1967 wars. The DFLP was split from the PFLP in 1969 also in the diaspora. They have started using violence against Israel from within the territories after the 1967 war.

[5] The Green or Armistice Line is a product of agreements signed in the spring and summer of 1948 between Israel and Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan under UN mediation. The Armistice Lines overlapped the borderlines of British Mandate Palestine, except for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In the latter two areas the lines were determined by the outcomes of war between the Jewish militias and the Arab countries in 1948.

[6] Arafat is perhaps the most famous Palestinian leader, who passed away in 2004. As the former leader of the Fatah party, he led the Palestinian national movement from exile, which was terminated with his return to the Gaza Strip in 1995 after signing Oslo I. in 1996, Arafat was democratically elected the first president of the Palestinian Authority, which was established by the peace process with the Israelis.

[7] To list a few examples, clients of Israeli technologies include American Express, City Bank, and JP Morgan Chase, the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority, the European Space Agency, Motorola and Intel (Gordon, 2011, pp. 153–4).

[8] Nice Systems, for instance, is one of those companies that provided technologies for New York and Los Angeles police departments to record telephone calls.