Learning From Israel in the Aftermath of Orlando

Danielle Zaychik is a research associate with the NCPA: “As we mourn the victims of the Orlando attack, gun control is once again at the forefront of the political debate.  But the solutions should be more geared towards terrorism.  Having lived in Israel for an extended period, I made some observations that may help the readers understand how a country combats terrorism within its borders.  The following suggestions come both from relevant literature and from Israeli experience.

Aggressively pursue terrorist suspects: In light of ISIS’s encouragement of lone wolf attacks, the U.S. government must step up its attempts to identity and track potential adherents to their message.  Not only had Omar Mateen twice popped up on the FBI’s radar, a gun company and Disney both reported Mateen to the FBI because of his suspicious behavior.  While there is definitely a place for restrictions on FBI investigations aimed at protecting citizens’ privacy, the U.S. government cannot ignore the changing nature of terrorism.  Israel has seen success using aggressive counterterrorism measures, including targeting terrorist organizations’ use of information and communication technology.  Since these platforms are used to inspire attacks, the United States government could consider creating an aggressive surveillance, monitoring, and counterterrorism system that combats those efforts.  Additionally, integrating local police units into federal counterterrorism efforts is critical for safety and security.

Decrease vulnerability:  In general, the idea of increasing the presence of public and private security guards does not sit well with Americans.  It seems unfathomable to put a guard in front of every major terror magnet (including concerts, malls, and train stations).  However, this is precisely what Israel did; Israelis got used to living with security as a part of daily life.  The most recent wave of violence in Israel, the Jerusalem Intifada, consisted largely of lone wolf copycat attacks, inspired by the social and mainstream media.  Attacks have been primarily halted by security forces and the increased security presence in high-conflict places, like the Old City of Jerusalem, has likely dissuaded others.  It can work in America, too.  Placing security guards in schools, for example, became more popular after Sandy Hook without controversy.

Improve response time. Active shooters often do not stop shooting until they meet resistance.  Or will continue their attack elsewhere if they do not meet resistance at the first location.  In many ways the Orlando shooting resembled the Bataclan massacre, which also had around a three hour police response time, although the Orlando police properly followed protocol based on previous incidents.  But protocol in regards to response could be considered for change.  Finding ways to improve response time, as they have done in Israel, will undoubtedly save lives during the next attack.

Past domestic and international experience provides a blueprint for creating measures that could mitigate future terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.  We cannot fall into the trap of crafting policy that tries to prevent the last attack.  We must implement measures that will best mitigate both threats similar to those we have seen in the past and new threats going forward.”

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