Photo: AP
Is al-Qaeda getting closer?
Photo: AP

Is al-Qaeda threat growing?

Threat level largely unchanged, but Iraq pullout could boost risk of attacks

In recent months a growing number of voices are arguing that the al-Qaeda threat to Israel - which is tenaciously approaching Israeli borders - has worsened considerably. Contrary to the spirit of these declarations, it appears that events on Israel's borders at this point in time - including in Gaza and Lebanon - do not justify a fundamental change in the situation assessment that would call for Israelis to be put on high alert.


Rather, what is required is the bolstering of intelligence awareness and execution of preventative measures by our intelligence and security forces in face of Israel's host of dangerous enemies, activities which are carried out anyway.


Clearly the worldview of al-Qaeda's leadership throughout the years was and has remained fundamentally anti-Jewish and anti-Israel, and is no different in essence than that of other radical Islamic elements preceding it.


Until the beginning of 2000, the poisonous rhetoric against Israel and the Jews was barely evident in acts of terror. Only a small number of attacks were planned by the organization and most were foiled. From 2000 onwards a change began to take shape. The growing involvement of al-Qaeda in world terror and its increased self-confidence led to the bolstering of the organization's efforts to strike at Israel and at targets identified with it.


This primarily stems from the understanding that if al-Qaeda strikes a severe blow at Israel and targets affiliated with it, it would garner support even from elements generally deterred by the organization's indiscriminate acts of terror against Arab and Western targets.


Clear testimony that al-Qaeda is seeking to strike at Israel with all its might was evident in the terror attack in Mombasa against Israeli tourists (November 2002,) which should be noted despite not being carried out in full due to a technical malfunction. Yet on the other hand it should also be remembered that al-Qaeda's enemies are many and their geographical distribution is vast, and that the organization and its partners' capabilities are not limitless.


Stopping Bin Laden


Israel's handling of the threats posed by al-Qaeda and its partners in its various forms must be premised on the availability of its preventative and defensive capabilities. At the same time it should be assisted by its allies and rely on preventative action carried out by enemy countries and elements with a common interest in impeding global Jihad. Counties such Egypt and Jordan, which have always been concerned by global Jihad, invest considerable effort and resources in foiling its actions.


This situation is even more complex when dealing with countries such as Lebanon and Syria, which have global Jihad presence in their territories. The Lebanese government is up against Fatah al-Islam and similar organizations, and has even begun hunting those who launched Katyusha rockets towards Israel. It is doing so in a bid to assert its authority in its sovereign territory and to prevent further conflict with Israel. Preventing activities by such elements, located in Syria, is to a large extent dependent on its interest to hinder it.


Even Hamas' Gaza takeover, perceived by many as a convenient springboard for al-Qaeda to infiltrate Israel via its southern border, may in fact turn out to be a move that impedes it due to Hamas' clear interest in controlling Gaza-based terror and whether to employ or restrain it.



The establishment of global Jihad elements in Iraq may also present a threat to Israel. The possibility of coalition forces - headed by the US - leaving Iraq will provide global Jihad members with a sense of victory and power. This may put all the enemies of global Jihad – including Israel - in the line of terror carried out by the "Iraq graduates."


If this indeed does occur and al-Qaeda pronounces Israel the next Jihad arena, it will succeed in enlisting all its partners, which has not happened thus far, and may mark a significant turning point in the level of threat to Israel.


If such a situation occurs, we may be able to say that al-Qaeda is sitting on our fences and that we should prepare for the new threat.


The writer is a terror expert at the Institute for National Security



פרסום ראשון: 06.25.07, 00:09
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