Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni believes Israel should follow the US model and widen its definition of homeland security to include civil emergencies as well as terror attacks.
"Until now, the classic perception of homeland security was meeting challenges from external security threats," Livni told US and Canadian delegates of a homeland security conference in Jerusalem.
"Now the civic homeland security perception includes all kinds of external and internal threats to the civilian population, such asâ€¦ epidemics, natural disasters and others. Israel should follow this concept," she said.
Livni added, however, "it's a concept I believe that will be difficult for some Israeli generals to adapt to."
Around 130 top-ranking homeland security officials from 37 US states and Canada are in Israel for the four-day conference, which was organized by the Foreign Ministry and started on Sunday evening.
The participants include police and fire chiefs, public health and safety officials, and regional FBI representatives. All of those interviewed said that they were looking to learn from Israel's experiences in dealing with terrorism as well as being able to discuss some of their own methods.
"Areas of mass casualties and counter-terrorism are very new to us. The Israelis have been doing this for a long time," said Joe Morales, the executive director of the Department of Public Safety for Colorado.
He was specifically interested in "protection and assessment, evacuation planning and of how you manage the threats in your malls, where a lot of people meet," he said.
Morales also wanted to learn about the safeguarding of "critical infrastructure," which includes transport systems, bridges, and energy installations and supplies.
"I want to get some [of the] best practices we can take back to the States," said John Ratliff, a homeland security official at the National Governors Association.
He added that he could brief the Israelis on how to fulfill Livni's demand of taking an "all-hazards" approach to homeland security.
Sergeant Tim Swift of the Los Angeles Police Department said he wanted to learn how the emergency services dealt with terrorist attacks. "I want to see how they manage the incidents as far as command and control is concerned," he said.
He added that he could inform Israeli officials about the CommStat program that the LAPD deploys to combat crime.
"This uses computerized statistics to analyze crime trends in a particular area and coming up with the solutions to confront them," he said. "It's about bringing everybody to the table and talking about what works and what doesn't work."
There was a lot of good will among the participants for Israel because of its experiences with terrorism, with Morales summing up the feeling. "We can teach the Israelis... that they have a lot of friends. There are a lot of people who are empathetic and who understand," he said.
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