Scene of attack in Bangkok
Photo: AP
In Delhi, embassy car was target
Photo: AP

'You must sleep with a gun under your pillow'

Terror attacks cause Israeli diplomats worldwide to take extra security measures; 'You do everything to avoid ambush,' former envoy says

The terror attack in New Delhi, the attempted attack in Tbilisi and the botched bombing in Bangkok over the past 24 hours have propelled Israeli diplomats abroad into a state of emergency, where even the kids are warned to stay alert.


Veteran Israeli diplomat Eli Shaked, who served in the Foreign Ministry for three decades – including stints as the Jewish state's envoy to Egypt and Turkey – said that at times like this, keeping a low profile is key.


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"It affects everyone, from the children, who might not go to kindergarten or school, to partners who must stay put," he said. "The Israeli community retrieves into itself and does what it can to protect its people."


Following the attack in India and the attempted attack in Georgia, Israeli diplomats have been advised against travelling in cars in the immediate future – since the embassy vehicles make easy targets for terrorists.



Shaked said that when disaster strikes, diplomats must make efforts to break their routine in order to "confuse the enemy."


"You do everything not to be where you're supposed to be, in order to avoid the spot where (a terrorist) might be staking an ambush," he said.


Spontaneity is the first to go in times of emergency, Shaked said; all actions must be thought out, which greatly cuts the freedom of movement.


"Even the young kids realize that something is off, and must be instructed to pay attention to what's going on without panic and without scaring them," he said. "The goal is to lead a life as normal as possible in an abnormal environment."


Bombings portend more attacks

Another Foreign Minister official who has served in key ambassadorial roles said that Monday's attacks served as a "concrete warning" that more attacks are on the way.


"In this situation you assume that there are other events in the works," he said. "Vigilance is crucial; vehicles and routes are double-checked and triple-checked."


Former Shin Bet official Nimrod Firstenberg, who served on the security teams of various embassies, said that while states of emergency are not often addressed with an increased number of guards, keeping alert is the first order of business.


"You sleep with a gun and a flashlight under your pillow," he said.


Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in New York on Tuesday to discuss the issue. Shalom told Ban that the violent trend, which prevents diplomats from living their lives, must be stopped. The UN chief expressed dismay over the attacks.


Ministerial visits abroad restricted

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry has issued a directive to Israel's ambassadors abroad to avoid cooperating with Israeli ministers seeking to organize working visits abroad without first coordinating the visit with the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.


Foreign Ministry sources said that some ministers act as if they are running their own independent foreign ministry; moreover they try to go around the ministry and use the ambassadors abroad.  

"The number of incidents where various ministry attaches including the Defense ministry and officials in the financial sector approach the deputation directly with requests to assist them in organizing the visits for their Ministers," wrote Gilad Cohen, the Head of the Foreign Ministry's coordination section in a directive sent to the Israeli embassies around the globe.


He then went on to clarify the necessary procedures in these situations: "It must be politely made clear to anyone who applies (to the embassies) that they must go back to their office and make their request in an organized fashion with the Foreign Ministry's coordination section which is in charge of liaising with various government offices.


"I would request that you avoid setting ministers' visits in motion without explicit authorization from the Foreign Ministry."


Yitzhak Benhorin and Itamar Eichner contributed to the report




פרסום ראשון: 02.14.12, 19:27
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