THE FBI and CIA seem like nothing so much as two moribund giants in the way they are dealing with terrorism of both the "domestic" and "imported" variety.In the US security services were caught totally off guard by the TWA 800 bomb explosion. And the much-vaunted protective screen built around Atlanta's Olympic Games was mocked when a primitive terrorist pipe bomb went off outside its perimeter.
Why wasn't the Olympic park area evacuated immediately after the suspicious object was spotted by security staff? In Israel roads are blocked and people kept away long before disposal men arrive on the scene of a suspected bomb. Yet snide comments about US inexperience seem out of place when one recalls that just last week two generations of the Munk family, a father, his son and his son's young wife were wiped out by a terrorist attack near Beit Shemesh. And last month Yaron and Effie Unger were killed in the same area. Security around there is still as non-existent as it was on TWA 800.
In both countries, national leaders warn grimly of stringent measures to be taken. TWA has decided to "step up security." Our government promptly closed off the territories after last Friday's slaying. But by Saturday night it was on the verge of opening them up again. Wiser voices suggested there might be indecency in such unseemly haste. As a result it wasn't until Sunday that the closure was lifted. Rabin and Peres usually kept the West Bank and Gaza sealed for longer periods.
So what happened to the promises, to the thundering speeches from our new prime minister et al about Israelis' personal security being the top priority of a right-wing administration? No sooner had the country voted them into power on the strength of putting Yasser Arafat in his place than there was David Levy warmly shaking the man's hand like a dear old friend. Was the death of the Munks the security what the majority of Jews voted for? Arafat hasn't fulfilled his obligation to prevent terror attacks. In the wake of the Munks' death the PLO leopard hasn't changed his spots not at all. He's been busy lauding slain master-terrorist Yihye Ayyash and fellow "martyrs" for indiscriminately killing Israelis.
The US and Israel need to cooperate actively in coping with the growing menace of terrorism. America faces two major threats, from Moslem fanatics outside the country and extremist far-right groups inside it. Israel also has two major concerns: terror in Israel itself and terror aimed at Israelis and Jews in the West.
With their thousands of CIA and FBI operatives, the Americans are brilliant at terror post mortems. Their powerful hi-tech expertise, for example, enabled them to pinpoint who was responsible for killing a US soldier in an East Berlin discotheque in 1986. They solved the mystery of who blew up the PanAm plane over Lockerbie in 1988. They traced the Libyan culprit and organizers of that atrocity via Damascus to its source in Teheran. They sought revenge by bombing Muammar Gaddafi's palace in Libya in 1986.
LAST WEEK a team of US aviation experts was focusing on the lack of security at Athens airport, seeing how easily a bribe could provide access to the planes on the tarmac. The team also inspected security arrangements in Tel Aviv not just to check if they were efficient, but to observe stringent Israeli control and learn from it. How to come to grips with a growing problem that is vexing both countries? We spoke to veteran top security and intelligence experts who, in the Sixties and Seventies, weren't content with knee-jerk reactions when terrorists took the initiative, striking where, when and how they liked. These were the men who set out to punish the slayers of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, who thwarted the greatest terrorist menace to face any country, the building of an Iraqi nuclear bomb in 1981, clearly aimed at Israel.
"The entire intelligence system must be totally rebuilt," we were told. "In the US and Israel too the intelligence services are creaking along like ox-wagons in the jet age. They are stuck in a rut of inertia." So what must be done? "Small, secretive organizations must be constructed using past and current experts on terrorism, people who don't necessarily belong to the present establishment. Speed is of the essence, since the threat of nuclear, chemical and biological terrorism looms.
"We cannot rely on 'static' defense. These organizations' primary aim must be aggressive; they must focus on the difficult but feasible task of penetrating both domestic and international terrorist groups. To do so, they must invest in modern technology. "The aim must be to strike at Hizbullah, Hamas, and their Iranian masters in Syria and Libya, and at the Iranian mother snakes in their nest, instead of fooling around chasing after the vipers they spawn after they have struck. They must be wiped out one by one with innovation and daring, as in the past. Again, there must be close cooperation between the US and Israel."
Both countries have men with the courage, intelligence and motivation for the challenge. To be effective they will have to work secretly, behind the scenes. The present system of announcing in the media day by day what security services are doing is totally counterproductive. Terrorists read and watch TV too. As far as Israel is concerned, ringing declarations about how the West must play a part in curbing Iranian or any other kind of Middle Eastern terrorism are simply a waste of breath. They're just an excuse for inertia.
If the intelligence bodies cannot protect Israelis on their roads, then the new body proposed by past experts should be set up immediately. If Arafat isn't prepared to hand over killers who flee to areas under his control, Israeli methods that worked so well in the past must become part of the determined struggle to provide security for all Israelis wherever they may live. And if hot pursuit into Arafat-controlled areas arouses the ire of Israel's traditional critics, so be it. The lives of its citizens count for more than pious tut-tutting. (c) Jerusalem Post 1996
Uri Dan & Dennis Eisenberg are authors of The Mossad: Secrets of the Israeli Secret Service and other books on the Middle East.