The cost of diplomacy

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Click photo to download. Caption: Asaf Romirowsky.

Israelis all over the world were recently warned to be on the alert for potential terror attacks, given Iran’s constant attempt to sponsor assaults on its own and through its proxies like Hezbollah on Israeli/Jewish targets worldwide. Prior to the recent attack on the Israeli diplomatic car in New Delhi, Israeli intelligence warned India of an imminent threat to Israeli establishments and individuals, providing them a detailed list of about 50 individuals— all Iranian nationals—believed to be involved in such actions (although Indian officials are working with Israel, the Indian authorities have yet to confirm this).

Consequently, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast, of course, denied these charges, stating that, “The Zionist regime has a high record of criminal actions against humanity and it is the first suspect of any terrorist operation in the world …Tehran condemns terrorism in strongest terms as Iran has been a victim of terrorism.”

Furthermore, Hezbollah’s leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah stated that they too had nothing to do with the attack in India, the botched bomb plot in Thailand, or the attempted bombing in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Nasrallah did give a speech marking the death of top Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh, where he stated that Hezbollah would still avenge Mughniyeh’s death and suggested that these plots were too trivial to be the work of Hezbollah, stating that, “Soldiers or Israeli diplomats or civilians [are]…insulting for Hezbollah.”

Historically, all Israeli diplomats and public officials have always presented a target to terrorists, as they have been perceived as official representatives and symbols of the government of Israel and its so-called “ruthless policies” and violations of human rights, specifically towards the Palestinians. The notion that Israel is the embodiment of evil and the greatest violator of human rights runs deep within terrorist circles.

Case in point: In 2003 Shlomo Argov, Israel’s former ambassador to Britain died at age 73 from wounds he received in 1982 during a London terrorist attack that triggered Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. On June 3 1982, Argov was getting into his car after a banquet at the Dorchester hotel in Park Lane when three gunmen from the Abu Nidal group appeared from nowhere; one of them, Hussein Ghassan Said, fired a single bullet straight through his head. The ambassador fell into a three-month coma, and somehow survived, but was paralyzed and required constant medical attention for the rest of his life.

The next day, Israeli forces bombed PLO arms depots in Lebanon, Palestinian forces retaliated with cross-border Katyusha rocket salvos, and, barely 48 hours later, Israel launched Operation Peace For Galilee.

The PLO, in its heyday, employed terror in the skies through hijacking airplanes, as we witnessed in 1976 during the Entebbe raid. After the Munich massacre of the Israeli athletes in 1972, Israel internalized the security threats abroad and mandated that no Israeli delegation—political or cultural—would leave the State of Israel without Israeli security. This is a reality Israel has learned the hard way—only Israel can take care of its own.

There is no doubt that these policies are crucial and can save lives, yet not all Jewish and Israeli institutions have the luxury of their own security forces, and as such they need to be more vigilant and proactive. The newly used homeland security slogan, which states when you “see something, say something,” has a different meaning for the Jewish community at large, when Jewish institutions as well as El-Al tickets stands have been targeted over the years.

All and all, the fact that terrorists, and potentially non-professionals, managed to attach explosive devices to the vehicle of an Israeli diplomat is deeply worrisome and should remind us of how watchful we need to be. Finally, as British Prime Minister David Cameron rightfully stated, “Security and diplomacy go hand in hand. Diplomacy is the ultimate weapon for security.”

Asaf Romirowsky is a Philadelphia-based Middle East analyst, and an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Forum.

Posted on February 20, 2012 and filed under Israel, Opinion.