Lessons from Israel and ‘the inflationary theory’ of security



“It is perfectly in order to pursue a terrorist wielding an M-16 assault rifle and shoot him down with an F-16 fighter jet because there should never be a price-tag to saving the life of innocent citizens,” the words of Avi Dichter, former Director of Shin Bet (the legendary Israeli Security Agency) echoed down Maxi-Dome Hall at the Israel Trade Fairs and Convention Centre, in the outskirts of Tel Aviv, on a chilly Monday morning early November as he gave a captivating talk on “Israel’s Security Doctrine.”

For the uninitiated, the analogy of M-16 assault rifle (a basic weapon) versus F-16 fighter jet (one of the most sophisticated fighting machines) is akin to smashing an irritant mosquito using a 10-kilogram mallet. On the face of it, killing a mosquito with a mallet might sound rather absurd and appear like inordinate use of resources. But hold your horses.

Avi Dichter, a waspish-looking veteran of the dark arts of Israeli’s Security Intelligence who is also a former Minister for Home Front Defence, minced no words as he expounded his country’s national security doctrine.

The former Shin Bet boss told the attentive audience that comprised internal security ministers, counter-terrorism and intelligence professionals as well as other players in public security sector from over 50 countries across the world (including Kenya) that Israel’s national security doctrine was anchored on the premise of being “offensive” as opposed to being “defensive”.

What this means, he explained, is that if, through intelligence, Israeli security agencies – Shin Bet, Mossad or any of the several others – discover that a group in a neighbouring or far-off country is involved in a terror plot against Israel or Israeli’s interests both at home and abroad, this almost automatically triggers a pre-emptive strike with immediate effect.

As I listened to Avi Dichter’s talk, the 1981 bombing and annihilation of Iraq nuclear reactors at Osirak by Israeli Defence Forces came to mind. Operation Babylon, as the raid was code-name, is the most prominent and famous of Israeli’s ‘automatically triggered’ pre-emptive strikes.

Another aspect of Israel’s security doctrine is premised on what they call “inflationary theory of security.” Translation: If you strike Israel once, Israel will endeavour to avenge 20 times equivalent. This way, Israel makes it extremely expensive (inflationary)-in terms of cost and casualties- for her enemies. Talk about stretching the Hammurabi Law of ‘a tooth for a tooth’ beyond conceivable limits.

Back to the former Shin Bet director, he explains that Israel has survived and thrived despite being surrounded by enemies because the country invested heavily on her national security in terms of personnel, equipment and technology.

Indeed, investment in securing the country, her people and their commercial interests through technology becomes evident when you talk to Israeli security experts at Ben Gurion Airport.

Besides the visible CCTV cameras on highways, airports and other public places, Israel relies heavily on an assortment of other hi-tech (but often indiscernible) gadgets and devices to secure the country.

The role of individual citizens is also a critical and formal aspect of the Jewish nation’s security system. Every citizen of Israel is obligated to be his or her neighbour’s keeper under the “police and community” division of Mishteret Yisra’el (the Israel Police Force).

Formally known as Shomrim (Hebrew for ‘guards’ or ‘watchers’) Israel’s version of Community Policing (Nyumba Kumi) is trained and armed by the Police Force and comprise of civilian volunteers.

Trained and equipped with weapons, Shomrim (the civilian guards) play a very central role as first responders in the event of a security breach until the arrival of police.

The Shomrim volunteers work in shifts and do patrols in their neighbourhoods either on foot or in car. They also have powers to arrest suspects and deliver them to the police.

This network of trained volunteers spread in all corners of the country provides a solid base for gathering information on anything or anyone who might pose a threat to Israel’s national security. To all citizens of Israel, there is not scintilla of doubt that security begins with the individual citizen; as President Uhuru Kenyatta recently reminded Kenyans too.

Undeniably, the role of civilians in security, and other security lessons from Israel, are principles Kenyans ought to take very much to heart if we are to have a safe and secure nation for us all.

(The writer is Spokesman, Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government)

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