Is Israel safer than America?

Israel understands that the world is and has always been a rough place; that we are always in a state of emergency, and that the War of 1948 continues.

Quebec police at site of shooting. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Quebec police at site of shooting.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
With the recent attacks on, and within, Canada's Parliament, the equivalent of the US Congress, the terrorists have sent us a message. And the message is very clear. Anyone can kill a lot of people.  It happens all the time.  In malls, college campuses, and so on, people go berserk and shooting sprees happen.  If terrorists want to kill dozens, or even hundreds of people in the West, they can surely do so. Just enter a few malls and start shooting.  Like every other crazy. But that's not what they wanted to do with the latest attacks.  No,  they wanted to show us that nowhere is safe from them.The same message they sent on September 11, 2001. What 9/11 drove home was that even the symbolic citadels of our financial, political, and military might are not safe from these people.  While not diminishing the deaths of nearly 3000 people in 9/11, that is simply not the kind of number that the enemies of freedom are aiming for. They are aiming to kill really large numbers of people. Such ambitions will have to await the development of small, nuclear devices, which presumably the terrorists are hard at work on. But the White House? The Pentagon? The World Trade Center? We considered these the safest places on the planet, the best protected. After 9/11, we understood that even they are vulnerable. True, one plane on it's way to crash into the White House never made it.  But another plane was actually crashed into the Pentagon. And two others into the world's financial center. If these places are not safe or able to be protected, then what chance do we have in our homes, offices, malls and movie theaters? That’s the message. That was what 9/11 was about. 
So too today, when there is a firefight inside Canada's Parliament building, literally outside the doors of Parliament's chamber where Members of Parliament are in session.  The imagery is iconic and striking. Lawmakers cowering within the chamber, with chairs piled high against the chamber's door. That's how close they got to these untouchables.That's how close they got to the prime minister who was right there. And it's not like this building is unprotected.  It is, after all, the equivalent of the US Congress. And yet they managed to penetrate it. That is what the message is about. Not how many people they killed.  But that nowhere is safe.
Except perhaps Israel. Or at least -- more safe. While Israel certainly has its share of terrorism, it is remarkable, no actually it is astonishing, how little terrorism succeeds in Israel relative to the amount constantly attempted. Terrorism is literally thwarted in Israel on a daily basis. And the resources and manpower enlisted in perpetrating this terrorism is far greater than in other Western countries. Yet Israel thwarts much more than 99 percent of it (an even better rate than Iron Dome). How come?
There are many reasons.  But the big one that stands out is that Israel is structurally different from all other countries in one critical area. That is that Israel is a police state. And while that term is never a good thing, in Israel's case, the unique way in which it is a police state is literally a life saver.
A police state means that a government can do whatever it wants at the expense of civil liberties. So you will find police states in every country where there is no democracy -- and hence, no civil liberties.  Democracy goes hand in hand with civil liberties and individual rights. So in democratic countries there are no police states. Except in Israel.
Israel is different because it never canceled its State of Emergency status enacted in the War of Independence in 1948.  So Israel remains in a State of Emergency,with all the governmental dictatorial powers that entails. Powers to do pretty much anything it needs to. Racial profiling?  No problem. Seizure of land? No problem. Arrest without access to counsel? No problem. Physical force to obtain information? No problem. Closure of areas? No problem. Disallowing the right to assemble? No problem. And so on. No other major democratic government has any such powers, nor are they going to have without a material change within their societies.
But while Israel has its hands free to battle terrorists by being able to act as freely and effectively as only a police state can, it behaves completely differently from every other police state in the world. Because Israel is also a democracy. Unknown anywhere else, these two seemingly opposing bedfellows, democracy and police state, coexist peacefully in Israel. Israel does not use its police state powers to infringe upon her citizens. Instead it behaves as if these powers don't exist and functions as every other democracy in terms of individual rights.  It only uses these powers to battle terrorism.
So why is Israel prepared for terrorism in a way that no other democracy is? Because Israel understands that the world is and has always been a rough place. That we are always in a state of emergency, and that the War of 1948 continues.
The writer is the co-founder and former CEO of Sirius XM Radio, America's largest radio broadcaster. Nominated by Harvard Business School as Entrepreneur of the Year, and inducted into NASA's Space Technology Hall of Fame, he now lives in Israel with his wife and family.