HERZLIYA, Israel — In a rare public appearance, the director of the Shin Bet security service this week called Iran the “No. 1 terror state in the world,” urged the government to build the West Bank fence as quickly as possible and admitted the security services, “including the Shin Bet,” had not provided the Israeli public with “the ‘protective suit’ they deserve.”
Addressing the Herzliya Conference on Israeli Security and Strength, Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter also warned of the potential “strategic threat” of Jewish terrorists, who he said dream of removing the mosques on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. That would turn the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a global confrontation pitting the world’s 13 million Jews against 1 billion Muslims, he said.
Dichter said the existing sections of Israel’s security fence had already proven that the barrier saves lives, citing an Islamic Jihad cell that recently set out to attack a school in the northern town of Yokne’am. The fence forced the terrorists to take a circuitous route by taxi, tractor and car, which resulted in their capture. “I can state that if there had been no fence, we would be holding this conference after a horrible attack in Yokne’am.”
As for the issue of Palestinian villages cut off by the fence’s route, “reservations over this Arab village or that should be postponed. In other words: Fence now, enclaves later.”
Turning to Iran, Dichter said it “may be defined, sharply and clearly, as the No. 1 terror state in the world. The Iranians are acting against Israel in a number of channels in order to strike both at Israel and at Israeli interests throughout the world.” He cited the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded more than 200. Argentine and Jewish leaders have linked the bombing to the Lebanon-based Hezbollah and the Iranian government — charges Tehran has repeatedly denied.
Dichter said Iran is trying to attack Israel not only by sponsoring Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist groups, but also by recruiting Israel’s Arab citizens, which he called “possibly the most dangerous for us.” Iran, he said, “has marked the Israeli Arabs as a potential fifth column for them to exploit.”
Dichter said suicide bombings had constituted only 2% of the total number of attacks in the three-year Palestinian uprising, but had caused 55% of Israeli casualties.
Since the start of the violence, 901 Israelis have been killed and 6,000 wounded in Palestinian terror attacks, he said, adding that 80% of the casualties were civilians. Over the past 10 weeks, Israeli security forces have intercepted more than 20 suicide bombers en route to Israel, he said.
His remarks were carried live on national radio, which said it was the first time his voice had been heard in a broadcast medium.
Dichter cited the Palestinian Authority as a factor in terrorism, blaming “the leaders of the Palestinian Authority, with Arafat at their head, largely for their failure to fight terror.”
“It’s clear to Arafat that he’s the only one in the Palestinian Authority who is capable of uniting the security forces in order to act against terrorism and to succeed,” Dichter said. Instead, Arafat has violated the trust placed in him by Israel and other nations, both during the years of the Oslo process and the last three years of conflict, Dichter continued. “His men expected to receive orders from him to act to end terrorism, but he chose to look on from the grandstands.”
Dichter said that in the first two years of the intifada, Jewish terrorists killed seven Palestinians and wounded 19. There were additional attempts to use firearms and explosives to harm Palestinians.