Counterterrorism takes back seat to Annapolis at Herzliya forum

Annapolis was in the air in Herzliya Tuesday, at a conference on "Global Terrorism and International Crime," as heavy hitters such as Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter laid out their security and diplomatic policies before an audience hailing from countries including Germany, Russia and Turkey. "The whole world has understood that the last thing we need in the region is another terror state," said Livni, speaking at the morning's first session. "The whole world has understood - including segments of Palestinian society - that when heroes in your culture are terrorists, this will affect the education and the society in which you live. Today, it is more understood than ever that this will affect your interest to receive legitimacy as a state." The conference, held under the auspices of the Interdisciplinary Center's International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, featured visitors including Gen. Anatoly Kulikov, deputy chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee for Security, and Rupert Scholz, former German defense minister. But issues close to home took center stage in the morning sessions. The permeability of Israel's southern borders was once again at the forefront of discussion, a day after a Knesset meeting was convened to discuss the topic. "The question of international boundaries are a weak point, both in terms of crime and terror," said Dichter. "The Egyptian border is simply wide-open." Referring to the Middle East conference scheduled for Annapolis, Maryland, Dichter said, "There is no chance to have a real conversation with the PA" if the Palestinians do not commit to building "a normalized" public security and law enforcement apparatus. But it was Barak who made some of the most forceful declarations regarding the upcoming summit. "I support the Annapolis conference with all my heart," Barak began - but then proceeded to unleash a long line of disclaimers. After concluding his words on Annapolis - which he offered in Hebrew at the beginning of his remarks - Barak discussed the topics included in the conference plan itself - detailing areas in which he thought the international community could effectively combat terrorism. With a nod to the Russian participants, the defense minister suggested "putting aside concerns" about Russian behavior in Chechnya and Chinese human rights violations in the Inner Provinces in order to recruit the two superpowers to help block Iran's nuclear proliferation. "We should make an order of preferences... and in this case, there is a compelling imperative to look beyond other issues in order to confront Islamic radical terror and nuclear proliferation," Barak said.