Analysis: What Europe has to learn from Israel on security

What happened in Brussels on Tuesday was the result of years of negligence.

March 23, 2016 10:49
2 minute read.
A policeman stand guard at Midi train station following bomb attacks in Brussels

A policeman stand guard at Midi train station following bomb attacks in Brussels. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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There are 11 visible security and inspection points at Ben-Gurion Airport. They spread from a roadblock at the airport entrance to the airplane gates.

It is not just because the Tel Aviv hub is a relatively small airport compared to major European and American airports, which can afford to exercise the strictest security measures regardless of the cost – it is the byproduct of a holistic security doctrine engraved in nearly 50 years of experience from blood and tears.

Since its first tragic failures, Israel has improved and upgraded its security measures on land and in the air. For decades, security experts from international airlines, police forces and security agencies have come here to learn Israeli know-how and doctrines.

Unfortunately, this it happens only after spectacular terrorist attacks, such as the 1988 Pan Am bombing and 9/11. It took western democracies a while to reach the conclusion that human life is no less important than human rights. Most probably it will happen this time, too.

Sure, there is no hermetic security, and terrorists take advantage of loopholes. But there is no need to be a genius to understand that what happened yesterday in Brussels was a colossal security and intelligence failure. According to media reports, Belgian authorities had advance warning about an “imminent terror attack.”

Yet neither the country’s police nor its security forces increased their presence in the streets or by deploying check points at the entrances to the airport. No wonder that the terrorists managed to enter with explosive belts.

What happened yesterday was the result of years of negligence.

For decades, Belgium’s police have been afraid to enter rough Muslim neighborhoods such as Molenbeck, in the capital. These areas first became heavens for criminal gangs dealing in drugs, protection and weapons. Then they turned into hotbeds of radical Muslim and anti-western trends.

In recent decades, such neighborhoods across Europe have become fertile recruiting grounds for young Muslims attracted by the slogans of jihadist groups such as Islamic State. Now, radicalized Muslim are returning from the Syrian and Iraqi battlefields.

They are ideologically hardened and militarily trained to perform on the home front.

To gather intelligence, security agencies need to penetrate terrorist networks, recruit agents and intercept communications.

It seems that the Belgian police were either afraid or reluctant, or they lacked the determination to do so. Perhaps all of these. These years of negligence resulted in a reality for which the Belgian public – and the world – pay the price.

Belgium’s security services lack necessary intelligence. The writing was long on the wall. Since 9/11, as well as Madrid, London, Turkey, Bali and more, the international community should have come to realize that it is at war. It took measures but was slow, even reluctant, to draw the necessary conclusions.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for yesterday’s attacks, and it makes sense. ISIS has been suffering major defeats on the battlegrounds of Syria and Iraq. Its megalomaniacal fantasy of creating a 7th-century state has been shattered. It now finds itself back to square one – being a copycat of al-Qaida.

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