European countries facing terrorist attacks on an almost daily basis have increasingly adopted counter-terror methods developed in Israel.
As in Israel, concrete barriers have been set up on busy streets to protect the public against car rammings, and larger numbers of security personnel are being deployed in potential target sites in the capitals and major cities of the continent.
In the wake of the most recent attacks, the past weekend saw concrete barriers go up in such places as the shopping galleries of Milan and the old port of La Rochelle on France’s west coast. In Finnish train stations and the Helsinki airport, security was ramped up, and Italy’s Interior Ministry asked rental companies to flag any suspicious rentals of vans or trucks, Haaretz said in a report on Monday.
But those are only the visible signs of a change in the European approach to security.
Ironically, Israel, so often criticized by the Europeans for taking too hard a hand with Palestinian terrorists, and for employing “profiling” of suspicious persons at airports, has over the last three years conducted what amounts to an international tutorial in how to cope with the scourge which has now hit Europe full force.
“When it comes to counterterrorism, Israel and Europe have intense relations,” said Jose Maria Gil, a Spanish security analyst from the International Security Observatory. “They are discreet, but very efficient.”
The contacts take place on every level, from the highest echelons to the police officer on patrol. Police forces seek advice on how to monitor or infiltrate organizations, prevent radicalization and “become less dependent on technology,” he told Haaretz.
“Jihadis have discovered that if they behave like people from the past, they become invisible to people from the future,” Gil said. Consequently, high-tech surveillance often may not catch the threats that old-fashioned human intelligence like undercover agents can.
“Almost every European country has sent a delegation to Israel,” said Ely Karmon, a senior researcher at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
A great difference in Israeli security that will be difficult for Europe to leave behind is the lack of coordination among various security forces of the kind that exists in Israel, where army, police, state intelligence agencies and local authorities work together, Karmon explained.
In Europe, by contrast, there is no unified transnational strategy, especially at the legal level, and unlike Israel, terrorism cannot be prosecuted as a criminal offense by the International Criminal Court, Gil said.