Israel Wants Immediate US Action against Local Terror Groups

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:10 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel is demanding that three organizations whose members appear on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations be put on President Bush's short list of terror groups that he has vowed to deal with immediately.

At a cabinet meeting following the terrorist attack on a settlement in the Gaza Strip earlier this week, the Israeli government issued a call for the organizations to be added to the list.

"The government calls on the U.S. and the international community to declare Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizballah as terrorist organizations against which immediate action must be taken," it said in its communique.

In response to questions, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the Middle East that the three organizations have been on the State Department's list for "some time."

"I believe all three of those organizations have been subject to specific and particular financial controls for some time as well," Boucher said.

But Sharon aide and cabinet minister Tzipi Livni said Boucher's statement didn't go far enough.

"There is a difference between the lists," Livni said on Thursday. "The U.S. declared that immediate measures be taken against [those on the short list]."

The idea is that when the U.S. includes them on its list of immediate action, then PA Chairman Yasser Arafat will be obliged to take action against Hamas and Islamic Jihad, she said.

In recent prodding to that effect, Sharon said that "terror is terror" no matter whom it is against or where it is. "There are no degrees of terror," he said.

If the world will declare these organizations to be on the immediate action list, then Arafat will be "under pressure," Sharon said.

Shawn Boyne, a terrorism expert and correspondent for the prestigious Jane's Intelligence Review, noted that those on the immediate action list are all part of the Al-Qaida network directly connected with Osama bin Laden, who is believed to have been behind the September 11 terrorist mass murders in the U.S.

Although Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizballah have all used suicide bomb attacks, they are not believed to have direct links with the Al-Qaida network of bin Laden, Boyne said.

Counter-terrorism expert Yoram Schweitzer, from the International Policy Institute on Counter-terrorism near Tel Aviv, said that while Bush's list includes only Islamic Fundamentalist groups associated with the Sunni Muslim Al-Qaida network, he believes the three were left off for "political reasons."

Terror groups cannot be compared to each other, Schweitzer said. "Sometimes they have different ideologies...but their activities are the same."

Sometimes Hizballah is considered a "guerrilla" instead of "terrorist" group because its attacks are often aimed at military targets, but most groups are using attacks against both civilian and military targets, Schweitzer said.

According to that differentiation, the attack on the World Trade Center would be considered a terrorist attack while the suicide plane bomb that flew into the Pentagon would be considered a guerrilla action, he added.

The U.S. will need to distinguish between short-term and long-term goals, Schweitzer said. In the short term a well directed military strike must be based on a "very narrow and effective military coalition."

In the long term, it needs to focus on a campaign that will end international terrorism once and for all. Countries such as Iran, Syria and Pakistan must then be recognized as part of the problem, he said.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad - which have always rejected the idea of a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians - are "part of the problem, not part of the solution," he added.

It is a na\'efve excuse of this administration to list only those organizations which are "strictly related" to bin Laden, Schweitzer charged.

There is no difference (except in size of operation and number of casualties) between attacking a pizza restaurant in Jerusalem or a disco in Tel Aviv and attacking targets in the U.S, he said.

"[The groups have] the same motivation, same modus apperendai, same intentions, same tactics, same ideology," he added.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which have been active for years, have claimed responsibility for a string of suicide bombings in Israel during the last year, which have left some 50 people dead and hundreds more wounded, including Americans.

Hizballah, which waged an 18 year military campaign against Israeli and allied South Lebanese Army troops in southern Lebanon, is still involved in cross-border attacks along Israel's northern border.

In 1983, Hizballah was held responsible for suicide car bomb attacks on the U.S. Embassy and Marine Corps compound as well as the French army base in Beirut, which left hundreds of American and French soldiers dead and led to the eventual U.S. withdrawal from Lebanon.