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(photo credit: AP)
International law dealing with terrorism is out of date and needs to be reevaluated, Israel Air Force Col. (ret.) Uri Dromi said on a trip here this past week. Doing so, in his opinion, will strengthen the ability of Western countries to fight terrorism.
Currently the United States and Europe have incongruent military legal and military strategies, which cause them to lag behind Israel in fighting terrorism, Dromi said. He is working to create an international "consortium" of think tanks to consider how well the law is suited to handling terrorism.
As part of that effort, Dromi, an IAF navigator from 1964-1989 and currently the international outreach director for the Jerusalem-based Israel Democracy Institute, traveled to the United States last week. In Washington, the IDI joined with The Israel Project to hold a one-day conference titled, "Democracies Fighting Terror: What Can Israel and the United States Learn from Each Other's Experiences?" In Israel's case, the legal model for fighting terrorism had to be refigured, according to experts at the event.
Before 2000, Israel, like most countries, fought terrorism using criminal law standards: investigating, arresting and bringing people to trial. As the second intifada grew deadlier, the Israeli military wanted to pursue terrorists using methods approved by rules of war, but there was no precedent for a war between a state and non-state actor, according to Col. Daniel Reisner, legal advisor in the IDF Military Advocate-General's Corps and former IDF international law chief.
He told the conference that as a consequence, Israel developed a different legal strategy for fighting this new "war." Out of that process came Israel's controversial "targeted killings" of terrorist leaders, which the military is authorized to conduct after ensuring certain criteria are met.
The Israeli Supreme Court recently validated the targeted killings approach.
"We quickly realized we can't do this alone," Reisner related, but said that when Israel approached allies to adopt these new war rules, they balked until the 9/11/2001 attacks in the US.
Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) praised Israel for its decades-long discussion on the balance between security needs and civil rights, saying that the US used Israel's debate on these issues as "guideposts" when dealing with similar questions that were raised in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Jeremy Issacharoff, Israel's deputy chief of mission at its Washington embassy, said that cooperation with the United States on counter-terrorism, recently upgraded by the signing of a memorandum of understanding, was of growing importance to the relationship between the two countries. September 11 only pointed out the shared interests the two states have, he added.
"This has become a very major element of Israel's overall strategic [cooperation] with the United States," he told the conference.
Dromi said Israel's experience had kept it from some of the excess exhibited by Americans after the destruction of the Twin Towers.
A month after the 9/11 attacks, the US Congress approved the Patriot Act, wide-ranging and controversial anti-terrorism tactics ranging from secret searches and surveillance to government rights to tax, medical and library records. Dromi also pointed to the controversy over the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay and allegations it violated human rights.
"America after 9/11 panicked and they took excessive measures," Dromi said. "In Israel, when you have already the experience of terrorism, decades of terror, the judicial system is more in tune with what's happening."
The consortium Dromi envisions would hold meetings, workshops and conferences and, in the end, craft modern laws to coordinate with the military aspect of the war on terrorism.
"The law will - I don't want to say serve the war on terrorism, but at least will be up to date," Dromi said.
Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this report.