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(photo credit: )
The threat of Islamist terrorism against air travelers flying between Britain and the United States has caused considerable damage despite the fact that the recent plot was thwarted. Security checks all over Europe have been beefed-up, lines at airports have grown longer, flights have been canceled.
But all this is nothing compared to the damage that could have been caused had the planes been exploded, murdering thousands of passengers. Beyond the terrible cost to human life any successful attack would damage world aviation, tourism, international trade and even globalization.
IF THIS is true for the West, it is all the more true for Israel. Any damage to our civil aviation system would represent an extreme blow to a country that is a tiny island in a hostile ocean with no effective alternative to its air routes to the world.
For Islamist and Arab terrorists, these tenuous ties are Israel's soft and vulnerable underbelly.
For a relatively "low price" the hated Zionist entity could be hit hard using four terrorist weapons: planes to attack a ground target (such as in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon); an attack on planes using ground-to-air missiles (as was attempted in Mombasa); carrying out a missile attack on Israel's only international airport, which is located very close to Palestinian towns over the Green Line; and carrying out a suicide bombing attack from inside a plane or planes, not necessarily Israeli ones, connecting our island with the rest of the world.
ISRAEL MUST deal with all these terrible dangers immediately. The war in Lebanon may have bolstered the terrorists' self-confidence and, with it, their appetite to murder and cause damage to Israel has increased commensurately.
The truth is even more far-reaching: The entire Western world will have to accept a new air safety regime and Israel, as in the past, must be its pioneer. What needs to be done? We should:
â€¢ gradually, but resolutely, move over to having our passenger planes protected by missile deflection systems. In many respects this will be expensive, complex and problematic to implement, but it is unavoidable.
â€¢ proceed immediately to build another international airport; a country like Israel cannot make do with a single international airport, one that could easily be paralyzed by the enemy.
An additional airport is desirable for other reasons too - to encourage competition, prevent strikes and improve service. But the first and foremost reason is security. For that reason, it would be advisable for this airport to be built at sea so that planes taking off and landing do not have to fly over residential areas.
In the context of this essential security regime Israel must convince the international civil aviation authorities of the need to deprive those who support terror, in word or deed, of the right to fly. The international community must also cut off air ties with countries that are not partners in the war on air terror.
THE WAR against terror is not a simple one, and it is asymmetric. The economic burden borne by those defending themselves is far greater than the one borne by those doing the attacking. Moreover, a single success on the part of the attackers would be considered a major "victory" even if numerous other attempts were thwarted. Israel has already proved that it is able to contend with air terror. It put an end to the plague of hijackings of Israeli planes which, at a certain stage, threatened to paralyze our ties with the world. Just as we overcame the hijackers, so will we overcome these murderers.
Israel is currently going through a difficult period. The results of the Lebanon war are likely to impact negatively on the country's domestic well-being, and not only in the area of security. But to be able to overcome our social, economic and political challenges we must first guard our borders on the ground and in the air and prevent Israel from being cut off. Any attack on Israel's air traffic, any assault on our one and only international airport, could be a deathblow to our economy.
We must and can find answers to these terror threats.
The writer is president of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya