Israel’s national police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, has revealed that European counter-terror police have been receiving training and information in Jerusalem over the past eight months.
In a breakfast address hosted by the United Synagogue in central London last week, the British-born Superintendent Rosenfeld drew an uncompromising picture of the different approaches to terrorism in Israel and in Europe.
He said: “In the last six to eight months there have been terrorist attacks in France and Germany, and we [in Israel] have had overseas delegations come to Jerusalem to receive information and train with our anti-terrorist unit. They learned how to prevent an attack from taking place and, if it does, how to respond so that there are a minimum number of casualties.”
He believed that part of the problem was Europe’s open borders and, as a result, the difficulty of identifying and tracking potential terrorists: “That’s exactly the difference between Israel and Europe. Israel has strong, concrete intelligence. We know what house, what number, what name, what vehicle. We know almost to the last detail who lives where, who is moving around and who is communicating.”
Such intelligence, he said, did not exist on the same scale in Europe. He added: “There are more than 900 British passport holders who have been to Syria, and who have come back to Britain, and are free to move around.” He did not think the resources were available for such people to be tracked, noting that in Israel it took between 50-60 people to monitor the movements of one potential terrorist.
Mr Rosenfeld called on Britain to up its game in trying to combat terrorism, saying there should be an improved public awareness programme in the UK about potential threats.
He said: “There has to be a clear-cut line between being able to walk around freely and security. In Israel, if there is a bag on the street corner, within 30 seconds a member of the public will move people away and you’ll have a police officer or a bomb disposal expert on the scene. Here in the UK, unfortunately, there is not the same awareness. Someone will leave a bag and it will be in the same place 15 minutes later — and 1,000 people will have walked by.”
Those dealing with potential terrorist threats in the UK had to have “all the tools they need at their disposal” in order to do so, “and if the law has to be changed, the law has to be changed”, he said.
Mr Rosenfeld acknowledged that it was not possible to prevent every attack. “But what we can do is minimise”. He said that the strategy was “to get back to normal as quickly as possible” and spoke of an ideal time frame of two to three hours — in contrast to a terrorist attack in London when an area was closed off for 10 days.
He said in Israel there was a major focus on monitoring social media as a way of pre-empting potential attacks.
The superintendent also emphasised the importance of his force’s Arabic-speaking officers, who go into schools in Israeli Arab areas to talk about the dangers of terrorism.