(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israel faces new prospects for establishing an anti-terrorism coalition together with Arab and European countries due to the US president’s personal interest, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday after the president left the country, Erdan said he believes Donald Trump can act to build relationships between Israel and European and Middle Eastern countries via intelligence sharing, capacity building and social-media monitoring to better combat terrorism and Iran’s influence.
“That’s why I try to emphasize that the personal involvement of Trump is so important,” Erdan told the Post
, later adding, “It will be easy to cooperate.”
In the Middle East, Erdan hopes the Trump administration will help create a grand coalition against Iran, similar to the Obama administration’s anti-ISIS coalition, “but even bigger.”
Trump echoed such sentiments during a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin on Monday: “What’s happened with Iran has brought many of the parts of the Middle East toward Israel.”
As public security minister, Erdan oversaw the country’s handling of a wave of lonewolf Palestinian stabbing attacks. Along with the police, Erdan expanded Israel’s ability to monitor social media for alleged incitement and oversaw the expansion of police presence into Arab towns.
“[In 2015], we did not have a lot of intelligence, it was very hard to predict where they are going to attack you,” Erdan said. “You have to change the way the police functions, the way you get information and intelligence.”
These are the kinds of strategies Erdan looks forward to sharing, along with increased cooperation with Europe and the Trump administration over “combating online incitement.”
“In Europe you have neighborhoods that were like black holes,” he said. “Also in Arab-Israeli cities, the presence of the police wasn’t enough. You don’t have intelligence. Not enough police [officers] who speak Arabic.”
Under Erdan’s watch, lonewolf attacks have dwindled, but he is routinely accused of “lying” and “inciting” by Arab lawmakers who say he is scapegoating the country’s Arab population and is too fast to label them as terrorists.
Erdan acknowledged the strained relationship between segments of Arab society and the Israel Police, but argued that his policies have largely benefited the underserved community.
“Even if the relationships are not good enough, it will never be a justification to kill a woman or a child,” he added.
Still, Erdan hopes his model can be exported to help combat violence, like the recent suicide bombing in Manchester.
“Some Scandinavian countries sometimes say now, ‘We understand you much more,’” Erdan remarked, although he was reluctant to name specific countries.