Gaza, Libya and 9/11: Wishful thinking helping terror
If we really want to fight terror, we have to throw away the wishful thinking. That is something we must demand of our leaders and of our media.
Rocket hits Be'er Tuviya home. Photo: Courtesy Be'er Tuviya
The terror from Gaza, Libya and even 9/11 are all linked by one thing: they were
made possible by Western analysts and leaders who relied on wishful
Each case shows how naïve/inept/corrupt leaders were were
joined by an entire class of media watchdogs, who became lapdogs curled up at
The leaders and the media analysts felt that the terror
threat was not so great, and they pretended there was no danger rather than
imagining ways to meet the danger.
That is what happened in Libya this
year. That is what took place in Gaza in 2005 and thereafter. That is what
happened to the US before 9/11.
For political reasons, the 9/11
Commission was exceedingly muted in its findings, but its clearest indictment is
that US leaders, particularly the Clinton administration, did not exercise
imagination in the face of growing Arab-Islamic terror in the 1990s.
the first Bush administration (1989-1992) and the second Bush administration
(the first eight months of 2001) were also remiss, but it was the Clinton
Justice Department, for example, that had all kinds of rules that prevented the
CIA and FBI from pooling data and working together.
It was the Clinton
team that imposed rules against airlines using “profiling” to screen passengers,
and Clinton appointees at the CIA such as John Deutch and George Tenet oversaw
the castration of American intelligence overseas. Talented agents resigned in
droves, rather than serve under the new bureaucrats.
Budgets for CIA
operations were cut back, and few agents with knowledge of foreign languages
(especially Arabic, Persian and Urdu) were put in the field.
that Clinton rarely saw his CIA or FBI directors is testimony to the low
priority he gave to intelligence gathering.
There was a joke about
Clinton’s first CIA director, Jim Woolsey, that, in retrospect, seems
particularly eerie: in order to get to see Clinton, it was said, Woolsey would
have to crash his plane into the White House.
Legend says Ariel Sharon
was a great fighter of Arab terror, but the truth is not as kind. Sharon’s
decision to evict almost 10,000 Israeli citizens and all Israeli forces from
Gaza – without any written or oral agreement with any Arab party – simply does
not make (and never made) any strategic sense.
But it made political
Sharon feared losing critical backing from Israeli financiers and
industrialists who liked Ami Ayalon, another former general, who pushed “The
Geneva Initiative” for talks with the Palestinians.
Sharon’s Gaza Plan
kept them in Sharon’s corner.
Sharon also faced a serious legal threat of
prosecution over various questionable money transfers, but knew no
attorney-general and no supreme court would demand an indictment right in the
middle of delicate “peace moves.”
For its part, Israel’s press
deliberately covered up for Sharon. David Landau, an exeditor at Haaretz,
admitted he and colleagues buried anti- Sharon news to keep him in power.
[Landau made these comments many times, but I heard them when we both briefed
students from George Mason University.] Amnon Abramovitz, the leading
commentator at Channel 2 TV, and Nahum Barnea, the most important writer at
Yediot Aharonot, did the same, leading their colleagues to protect
Abramovitz actually coined a special Hebrew term to describe the
media’s protection of Sharon.
For them Sharon was an “etrog” – the
special citron fruit proffered on Succot. The etrog is swaddled in protective
padding to make sure that it does not incur even the smallest blemish, and so
was Sharon swaddled and protected.
When Sharon promised to bring his
ideas to a vote before the Likud convention – and lost – the press did not
pillory him for hypocrisy and violation of his promises.
Much of the
Israeli academic community and the Israeli legal community joined in the effort
that made a travesty of Israel’s Basic Law guaranteeing due process and property
rights. The same Supreme Court which agonizes over the expropriation five meters
of soil from an Arab village for the sake of a border fence gave wholesale
approval to the cession of an entire territory to... well, no one, without even
an accompanying document or legal agreement.
Israel just pulled out, not
for the sake of a new road, not for the sake of a new fence, not even for the
idea of “peace in our time,” but on the vague whim of “some kind of peace in
some kind of time with some kind of partner whose identity will become evident
Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in 2005, hoping this would
make “the security situation better” and that Palestinian “moderates” (who,
exactly?) would embrace Israel’s gesture, choose peace and live happily ever
This is such wishful thinking that even Hollywood would have
laughed – but no one is laughing today after the thousands of rockets that have
flown from Gaza into Israel since that fateful withdrawal/
America’s diplomats in Libya were under constant threat and
intermittent attack well before the September 11 attacks of 2012, and the US
ambassador himself, Chris Stevens, had warned that he and his staff were being
targeted by al-Qaida.
President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton and other officials had to know this. There were just too many cables
and emails warning of the danger.
In addition, the consulate in Benghazi,
Libya, was attacked at least twice before the final fatal assault on 9/11,
America’s second 9/11 was a self-inflicted surprise because Obama’s
team was clinging to the old religion of “we-offended-them-so-they-attacked-us”
based on the fictional plot line that some YouTube video enraged Muslims
Two other big factors in the Obama team’s blindness to terror
• Obama wanted to believe that he had really spurred the climate change he
called “Arab Spring,” that would shortly bring forth new flowers;
• They wanted
to believe that almost all terror and all al- Qaida machinations ended the day
Sheriff Barack personally shot down that cowboy in the black hat, Osama bin
It is interesting that the US press has treated Obama much the way
most of the Israeli press treated Ariel Sharon – like a fruit to be protected
from blemishes, rather than like a politician whose actions need to be
If we really want to fight terror, we have to throw away the
wishful thinking. That is something we must demand of our leaders and of our
The worst lies are the ones we tell ourselves, and the most
dangerous lies are the ones we tell ourselves about terror.
The writer an
expert on Arab politics and communications, is the author of Battle for Our
Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat, published by Threshold/Simon and
A former reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively at
The New York Times, Cox Newspapers and The Jerusalem Post, he was strategic
affairs adviser in the Ministry of Public Security and teaches at Bar-Ilan