"The 21st Century will see many psychological barriers regarding mega-terror events lifted," outgoing Shin Bet Yuval Diskin said Wednesday.
Diskin was the keynote speaker at a Tel Aviv University Business-Academic Club conference about the Israel Security Agency and the changes in has undergone in the past 20 years.
Diskin voiced his concerns as to the possible security outcome of the Palestinian unilateral bid for statehood in September, and when asked about the unrest sweeping through the Middle East, he said: "It's very hard to assess what will happen in Egypt's election in the summer. The same goes for Syria.
"The one thing I know for sure about Syria is that whatever happens – it's going to get bloody. The Sunni majority is ruled by an Alawi minority and the minority is fighting for its life, and will apply every possible measure to survive.
"I suspect it will be very hard to get that genie back in the bottle, and even if they can, it will erupt again. I'm also not so sure we will remain unscathed, so I wouldn’t be complacent," he said, further warning of any volatile developments on the northern border.
The now former ISA chief reviewed the bigger terror attacks that ravaged Israel all through the 1990s. Speaking of the first suicide attack in 1993, he said: "Fortunately for us, that was a work accident. The terrorist was killed but no one else was hurt. At first we couldn’t believe it was a botched suicide bombing. It was a real shock and we failed to understand we were about to encounter a wave of suicide attacks."
The Israel Security Agency has had a great deal of success in damaging terror groups' capabilities, even if their motivation remains unwavering.
"Since 2002, we've seen an annualized drop of 50% in suicide attacks, and we have been able to foil numerous ones. This coincides with a dramatic drop in the number Israeli casualties over the past few years. This is a great accomplishment for the defense establishment."
'Home-grown terror is worse'
Speaking of the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was a "strategic failure by the Shin Bet." Saying the assassination was a failure of both the protection detail on the ground and the intelligence unit, which should have produced information to thwart any such attempt.
"The Shin Bet's vision is to foil terror attacks ahead of time. This was a failure by the security and intelligence outfits and we're still probing ourselves."
Speaking of the activities of the radical Right, Diskin noted that "for me, as an Israeli and a Jew, domestic terror is far worse than Palestinian or Muslim terror, because it is home-grown, it is where a Jewish Israeli citizen takes the law into his own hands.
"We are making great efforts in that avenue as well – although I won't go into details – and I hope we will see results soon."
Looking ahead, Diskin noted that "technologies that were once available only to super powers are now very common. Cyberspace has also become a very significant dimension for fighting terror, as well as for gathering intelligence and targeting infrastructure."
The 21st Century, he concluded, "is going to be an interesting one, terror-wise, which is why I have decided to retire. I've had my fill."
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