TEL AVIV – Israel is the key to combating global terrorism, a former U.S. army general said at a security conference Wednesday.
“Israel is a key piece in the puzzle,” U.S. Brig. Gen. (ret.) Russell Howard said during a panel on the lessons of recent major terror attacks at the IDC Herzliya Conference on Counter-Terrorism.
The retired general said that while the U.S. can handle the terror threat, the same cannot be said for Europe. The issue is compounded by the fact that as of 2015, some 5,000 European citizens are in Iraq and Syria fighting alongside terrorists. Those citizens are likely to return home at some point, wreaking more terror in Europe.
Editor of the CTC Sentinel Paul Cruickshank, another panelist, said the number of European fighters runs between 6,000 to 9,000.
In contrast, the U.S. has had 200 citizens leave to join terror groups in the Middle East.
Friedrich Grommes, Germany’s Head of Directorate TE, International Terrorism and International Organized Crime, expressed concerns over Syrian refugees in Europe, Germany in particular.
Grommes said that while some of them may be innocuous on arrival, months or years of waiting for refugee status and jobs may be used as an opportunity for terror groups like the Islamic State to radicalize them.
Meanwhile, Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein said Thursday to a group of parliamentary speakers from 50 European countries that the proper integration of immigrants could help fight terrorism.
“The gaps in language, social norms and customs; the need to find a job and community – these are universal challenges that the immigrant faces, whether he is in Israel, France, Germany or any other country,” Edelstein said in a speech to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
“A successful integration process probably will not prevent the fanatic wave of extremism we have witnessed lately … [but] by helping [most immigrants] integrate, we will make it much harder for the extremists and their leaders to spread their bloodthirsty doctrine among the younger generation of immigrants,” he said.