Top Israeli Police Official: Lone-Wolf Terrorism Can Only Be Defeated if West Unites to Combat It
Lone-wolf terrorism will only be defeated if the West comes together in a joint effort to combat it, a top Israeli security official told The Algemeiner on Wednesday, a day after an ISIS-inspired assailant killed eight people in a truck-ramming attack in New York City.
“Terrorism knows no borders and no boundaries in today’s world,” Major General Avshalom Peled — who currently heads the Israel Police’s training department — said. “No country is immune. No country can fight this war alone. We can only succeed if we unite together, share intelligence, ideas and experience, and face the challenge with a united front — Israel, the United States, Europe.”
Speaking with The Algemeiner while in Manhattan to attend the annual gala of the pro-Israel group Our Soldiers Speak, Peled expressed his condolences to the families of the victims of Tuesday’s mayhem on a West Side bike path.
“That’s what terror does, it takes the lives of innocent people,” Peled said. “The terrorists are trying to make people afraid and cause chaos.”
“Global jihad stands against democracy and the values it represents,” he noted. “Israel is a target, America is a target, Europe is a target, the entire non-Islamic, Western world is a target.”
Lone-wolf terrorism, Peled said, is a phenomenon Israel has been coping with intensively since 2014.
“The terror organizations didn’t vanish, they still exist, unfortunately,” he stated, “but lone wolves are more difficult to deal with.”
“This is because, generally, there is no prior intelligence,” he explained. “A lone wolf, most of the time, acts alone. It is his personal decision, which is usually a spontaneous one. He does not belong to a terror group and he is not usually known to authorities. Quietly, he or she picks a time and a place to attack. They are very hard to detect.”
While there is no typical lone wolf, Peled said, “what is common is the motivation of the ideology of extremist Islamic teachings, with the encouragement of Islamic terror organizations.”
Social media, Peled emphasized, is “one of the main tools of incitement producing lone-wolf terrorists.”
The lone-wolf challenge, he said, prompted the Israel Police to create “new procedures covering six main areas to deal with lone wolves — operational and tactical methods; intelligence; technology; dialogue; training; and public awareness.”
According to Peled, Israel’s security bodies — including the police, Shin Bet and IDF — have bolstered their cooperation to handle the threat.
“We’re building responsive joint command centers, which enable us to respond quickly and effectively during an event,” he said.
Also, he continued, “the availability of intelligence information is critical and we share knowledge between the security agencies in real time. There are no ego arguments. Using this intelligence information, we can build a target bank of potential terrorists, who may then be arrested and questioned. We also use intelligence to build specific profiles of lone-wolf terrorists, which helps us focus on potential perpetrators.”
Social media networks are also closely followed, Peled said. “It’s very hard to get intelligence about a lone-wolf terrorist, so one of the tools to gather intelligence is to watch social media in different languages,” he added. “We know that all lone wolves got ideas of global jihad ideology from social media. So it is very important that we monitor social media inside the population of potential lone wolves.”
In Israel, Peled pointed out, the police are aided by a public that has become accustomed to looking out for suspicious activities.
“We highly developed this starting in the mid-1990s when we faced a wave of Palestinian suicide bombers,” he said. “We defined the public as a strategic partner of the police. They often alert us to dangers. In Israel, the partnership with the public is very wide.”
Democratic nations, Peled went on to say, “fight terrorism with one arm tied behind their backs, because there is always a balance between the security and the freedom of citizens. More security, less freedom. More freedom, less security. And a democracy must maintain this balance between security and freedom.”
Israel, Peled assessed, has been “relatively successful” in quelling lone-wolf terrorism. “There is no such thing as 100% success in this field,” he said. “Nevertheless, our goal is 100%, and we’re improving our methods all the time.”
For America, he continued, mitigating the lone-wolf terror threat is “much more complicated.”
“In Israel, it’s much easier to define the community which the potential lone wolf will come from,” he said.
“I’m not here to teach the United States, it’s a great country,” he added. “But I think if we swap knowledge, we can improve our tools against the lone wolves. Israel is not more clever than America, it just has more experience.”
In the wake of Tuesday’s attack, Peled advised New Yorkers to “be alert, with a state of mind that they have to look for suspects and be the eyes and ears of the police on the ground.”