Experts Gather in Israel to Discuss Terrorism's Global Impact

By David Dolan | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Some 700 international terrorism experts from nearly 50 countries are gathering in Israel this week for an academic conference, which opens Monday evening with a memorial session honoring the 9/11 terror victims.

This year's conference, titled "Terrorism's Global Impact," will largely focus on Iran. Israeli experts generally consider the Shiite-run Muslim country to be the most dangerous state sponsor of terrorism in the world today.

First held in the year 2000, the counter-terrorism conference -- sponsored by the Herzliya-based Interdisciplinary Center's Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) -- will be addressed by some of the leading experts in the field.

Among the speakers is former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whose brother was killed when his elite IDF command unit stormed a terrorist-hijacked airplane in Uganda on July 4, 1976.

The Likud party leader will address the worldwide threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran.

Given the growing American standoff with Iran's theocratic Shiite government, the talk is expected to be among the highlights of the conference. Georgetown University Professor Raymond Tanter, who founded and co-chairs the university's Iran Policy Committee, also will examine the ramifications of a nuclear Iran, as will several other speakers.

American terrorism expert Steven Emerson, who warned a congressional committee in 1998 that Osama Bin Laden was hoping to launch a major terror attack inside America, will deliver a talk entitled "The Grand Deception: Militant Islam, the Media and the West."

He also will participate in a panel discussion examining militant Islam's challenge to non-extremist Muslim countries. Two other Americans are scheduled to sit on the panel, including the current U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Richard H. Jones.

Dr. Boaz Ganor, who founded and heads the Institute for Counter Terrorism and is the conference host, said the panelists will be asked to examine the possible creation of what he termed "an Axis of Truth" to counter the Axis of Evil first mentioned by President George W. Bush in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

It is hoped that such an alliance would involve moderate Arab and non-Arab Islamic countries that share the West's concern with growing attempts by radical Muslims and their operational allies, especially Iran, Syria and North Korea, to spread their dangerous and destructive ideology around the globe.

Dr. Ganor said he expects this year's international gathering to address a question that is increasingly being asked by governmental leaders around the world-how do we combat the ideology behind radical Islamic terrorism?

"It is not enough just to tackle the operational capabilities and strategies of terrorist groups. We also need to better understand what motivates them to carry out their deadly atrocities," he stated.

Dr. Ganor added that the international non-Muslim community -- which is increasingly being targeted by radical Islamic terrorist groups -- must be prepared to step up financial support for moderate Muslim states that are attempting to quell the radical Sunni ideology being spearheaded by Al Qaida, along with the radical Shiite theology fostered by Iran.

"They obviously need to deal with the problems themselves, but we can help them do it," he stressed.

A special session recently was added to the 2006 conference examining this summer's 34-day war in Lebanon. Speakers will focus on how the conflict might affect the spread of militant Islam in the region and around the globe, especially in light of the widely held Arab world perception that the extremist Hizballah militia triumphed simply by emerging from the war basically intact.

The war's implications for the nearby conflict in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian struggle will also be discussed.

The issue of Palestinian terrorism, which dominated most previous ICT conferences, will be dissected in the wake of Sunday's announcement by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that his government will pursue full implementation of the international road map peace plan unveiled by the White House in 2003.

The plan was put on the back burner in 2004 by Ariel Sharon, who instead advocated a unilateral Israeli withdrawal program. With rockets pouring down upon Israeli civilian centers from unilaterally evacuated southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, that plan has now been ditched by Olmert as a result of the controversial Lebanon war.

Uzi Landau, a former Likud party politician who served as Internal Security minister in Ariel Sharon's government, is expected to blast Olmert for not directly taking on Syrian forces in the recent war. Now serving as a senior research fellow at the ICT, Landau unfavorably compared Olmert to American President John F. Kennedy in an opinion article published last Friday in the Jerusalem Post newspaper.

He wrote that Kennedy was courageous and correct in warning the Kremlin that it would be held directly responsible if Soviet-supplied missiles were not immediately removed from Castro's Cuba in October 1962. He noted that this "steadfastness against aggression" led to hard-line Soviet leader's Nikita Khrushchev's political downfall shortly after the Communist superpower backed down and removed the missiles.

In contrast, he noted that P.M. Olmert informed the Syrian Baathist regime at the outset of the recent Lebanon conflict that it would not be held directly accountable for the daily Hizballah rocket barrage upon northern Israel, even though the rockets were mostly Syrian-supplied. "In comparison, our Lebanese 'missile crisis' ended with a victory for the Axis of Evil," Landau wrote.

The Olmert government's views regarding contemporary regional and international counter-terrorism efforts are expected to be given by current Internal Security minister Avi Dichter, who is slated to address the conference just before the 9/11 memorial session begins on Monday evening.

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