Shabtai Shavit, a former Director General of Mossad Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations and currently the Chairman of the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center, told the Jerusalem Conference Tuesday that heads of state who support terrorism are legitimate assassination targets and called for Western countries to unite to create a common definition of terrorism in order to fight radical Islam.
"Western Society must change its mindset," he said, "and adopt the principles we live with in Israel. They must adopt the principle that self-defensive pre-emptive strikes are legitimate, as are targeted killings. That applies to heads of states who support terror, as are any and all heads of terror organizations, including religious and/or political leaders.
"Think about it – we Israelis have come to live with this principle, but 10 years ago, who would have believed Israel would assassinate someone like (Hamas spiritual leader) Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, as we did in 1994?" he said.
Speaking at a Jerusalem Conference session entitled "Do Israel, the United States and the West Face World War III?" Shavit said democratic countries have traditionally been unable to agree on a definition of terrorism, a fact that has hindered efforts to fight the phenomenon on an international level. But he also said recent experience shows the world has woken up to the threat and has started to act.
"We can only determine who is winning this war by looking at results," he said. "Since Sept. 11, 2001 global terrorism has been unable to conduct another terror attack of same magnitude. Not for lack of trying, but because they haven't been able to. If you look back at the last six or seven years, you see we now live in global environment that the abilities of global terrorists have been sharply reduced."
Session panelists also included Prof. Uzi Arad , Director of the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, as well as two former United States Marines commanders, Maj. Gen. Harley C. Davis (ret.), the former commanding officer of the US Special Forces Command and Man. Gen. Bradley Mark Lott, the former Commander of the Marine Warfighting Center. As expected, panelists debated a range of approaches and predictions about the Western world's ongoing battle with terrorism and radical Islam, but all agreed there is a need to coordinate efforts on an international level and said high-level intelligence will be a key factor to ultimately winning the battle.
At the end of the day, said Shavit, the battle against international terrorism will be long and tough, and will exact additional casualties. But he said he remains optimistic about the ultimate outcome of the struggle.
"At the end of the day, the best side will win. We just have to make sure we are the best side," he said.