America the target

"America has the power, but not the will, to fight terrorism. The terrorists have the will, but not the power, to fight America," Former Mossad Chief Isser Harel said in 1980.

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September 18, 2019 22:07
4 minute read.
America the target

THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING is seen from the 71st floor of One World Trade Center in New York. (photo credit: ANDREW BURTON/REUTERS)

On a September evening in 1980 in Tel Aviv, I sat with former Mossad chief Isser Harel for a conversation about Arab terrorism. As he handed me a cup of hot tea and a plate of cookies. I asked him, “Do you think terrorism will come to America, and if so, where and why?”

Harel looked at this American visitor and replied, “I fear it will come to you in America. America has the power, but not the will, to fight terrorism. The terrorists have the will, but not the power, to fight America. But all that could change with time. Arab oil money buys more than tents.”

As to the where, Harel continued, “New York City is the symbol of freedom and capitalism. It’s likely they will strike the Empire State Building, your tallest building [at that time] and a symbol of your power.”

With my Western mindset, I replied that America was dedicated to fighting terrorism. Harel smiled and said, “You kill a fly and you celebrate. We live with flies daily. One dies and 100 flies come to the funeral.

“If ‘land for peace’ happens,” Harel continued, “I think it will mean America gets peace for a season, as the West pressures Israel into giving Arafat our land. But once you let the genie of appeasement out of the bottle, he will grow and eventually turn on you. In time, America itself will be in the crosshairs.

“Hitler first killed Jews, then he killed Christians. Our culture and our democracies are the root of [the terrorists’] rage. If we’re right, then they are wrong.”

Twenty-one years later, the first part of Harel’s prediction came true, except, of course, that the twin towers of the World Trade Center were much taller than the Empire State Building. However, it was the second part of his doomsday prediction that came true much earlier.

It was 1982 and Israel had declared its own war on terrorism by invading Lebanon to root out Arafat’s terrorist infrastructure. I was summoned to New York by then-prime minister Menachem Begin’s aide, Reuven Hecht, for a meeting with Begin prior to his meeting with then-president Ronald Reagan. Hecht had just met in Washington with then-secretary of state Alexander Haig, who had told him that America had changed its mind: It would no longer support Israel’s war against terrorism in Lebanon.

BEGIN WAS in shock. The West – whose planes had been blown out of the sky, its diplomats, soldiers and civilians murdered by terrorists – was now fighting to save the organization primarily responsible for these vile acts. In the end, American pressure prevailed and Arafat’s 10,000 PLO terrorists, rifles in hand, were escorted out of Beirut to safe bases in Tunisia and other Arab lands. The cries of Israeli mothers whose sons had died in Lebanon and who stood outside his apartment screaming “Murderer!” were more than Begin could bear. He resigned, a depressed and broken man.

Since then, hundreds of Israeli civilians have been killed, and thousands wounded by terrorists recruited, trained and equipped in territory controlled by Arafat’s legacy Palestinian Authority. Osama bin Laden’s cells operate in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as does Hezbollah, all with the PA’s blessing.

Arafat, who then held the world’s record for suicide bombings in his Intifada, came to New York. He expressed his sympathies over America’s tragedy when he spoke at the United Nations, and repeated his time-worn 1988 United Nations dirge, “I denounce terrorism.”

This was a golden opportunity for Arafat to help defuse the terrorists’ bombs since he was the godfather of world terrorism, and Arab dictators fed off his Intifada.  To the American people who had seen hundreds of suicide bombings over the years, and were then living it out, Arafat’s “I denounce terrorism” slogan meant nothing. 

By announcing: 1) an official end to the Intifada that has been the fertile soil for terrorism; 2) an end to the teaching of martyrdom in the territories; 3) an official commitment to honor the extradition requests of all terrorists who have killed Americans and all foreigners – (including Israelis); and 4) the dismantling of all terrorist organizations (including the removal of Hamas and Islamic Jihad – both on the US terrorist blacklist – from his cabinet), Arafat would have done more to bring peace to that region, especially when coupled with UN monitoring, and a reasonable timetable. Without this real attempt to dismantle terrorism, Arafat and the PLO organization that he founded should have been added to President George Bush’s blacklist. 

The writer is a #1 New York Times bestselling author with 89 published books. He is the founder of Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem. He also serves on the Trump Evangelical Faith Initiative.


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