Remarks by Ambassador Dan Shapiro at
The Institute for Counterterrorism 16th World Summit on Counterterrorism
Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Good evening and thank you Jonathan for the kind introduction.
Professor Reichman and Professor Ganor, thank you for inviting me again this year to speak at this solemn memorial. I deeply appreciate the time set aside at each year’s World Summit on Counterterrorism to honor the memory of the victims of terrorism, from 9/11 and from other attacks around the world. It is meaningful that this memorial ceremony opens several days of discussion and learning about how to fight and defeat terrorism, which is an essential goal the United States shares with Israel and with many allies who are represented here.
To the ICT team and the counterterrorism professionals here today, thank you for all you do and let me say that the U.S. Embassy is honored to join in supporting this important conference.
Minister Gilad Erdan, Shabtai Shavit, Judge Jean-Paul Laborde, Assistant Secretary General & Executive Director of the United Nation’s Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), Lt. Col. Jeremy Bentel, U.S. Army War College Fellow at the Institute for Counterterrorism, ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for joining the Summit and being part of this ceremony.
As Jeremy mentioned, everyone here remembers where he or she was exactly fifteen years ago today, when we heard the horrific news that our country was attacked. It’s a day deeply etched in my memory, which I spoke about in some detail at our memorial ceremony this morning in Emek Ha’arazim. But I also spoke about how, now, we face the task of education a new generation. A new generation rising to adulthood, that is not old enough to remember the events of 9/11. A young person reaching maturity today had no memory of those events. So as 9/11 begins its slow, inexorable transition from living memory to history, we must help them understand the meaning of these events, and the lessons to be learned.
The memory of the heroes and victims of 9/11 is still embedded in our hearts and that is part of what we must pass on. For family members and those who were closest to the victims, the pain of that loss never lifts. As a nation, we are committed to remembering and commemorating their lives. The United States’ newest National Memorial is located in a clearing in a forest in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, the site of the crash of United Airlines Flight 93. Dedicated just a year ago by the National Park Service, the memorial recognizes the heroism of the plane’s 40 passengers and crew members who, against all odds, thwarted an attack on the Capitol, an attack that would have made 9/11 even more calamitous than it was. I was at work at the Capitol Building that morning and their heroism may very well have saved my life as well.
Today, we honor their memory together with the memory of nearly three thousand innocent civilians—among them five Israelis—who were killed at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and on the three other planes hijacked that day.
The international response to America’s grief after 9/11 indeed, was humbling and it still is. In the immediate aftermath of tragedy, the American people encountered unprecedented sympathy from nations around the world. That sympathy was especially heartfelt coming from the Israeli people, a nation that has suffered the scourge of terrorism for far too long and at a seemingly unbearable price. We saw vividly in those days that resilience and an indefatigable national spirit are values that Israel and the United States share, beyond our mutual commitments to democracy, freedom and rule of law.
After 9/11, America’s allies shared not only our grief but also our determination to strike at the enemy that dispatched the terrorists and the regime that sheltered them in Afghanistan. That’s why NATO invoked Article 5, its collective security clause, for the first time in its history, less than 24 hours after the attack. Today, terrorists know, the U.S. and its allies not only grieve together, they also fight together. The heinous terrorist attacks of the past year, from Paris to Istanbul, from Nigeria to Brussels, and so many others, are an affront to our common humanity and they redouble our resolve to degrade and defeat our enemies.
Terrorism remains a real threat here in Israel and it’s a threat that constantly affects Israelis’ daily choices. Should I get on that bus? Should your child walk to school today? And in some parts of the country residents ask themselves, “Can I even go outside today”? Israelis show admirable resilience in the face of these threats, but frankly, they should not have to put up with them.
This past year has been especially difficult, last October I attended the funeral of Richard Lakin, z”l, a teacher and a peacemaker, who was brutally, viciously murdered in a terrorist attack on a Jerusalem bus. In November, Ezra Schwartz, z”l, a young student in the flower of his youth, was stolen from his family. In March, during Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel, Taylor Force, an American graduate student from Vanderbilt, who was in Israel on a study tour, was stabbed to death by a terrorist just down the road from our Embassy. These are just three names, three American citizens, among too, too many Americans and Israelis murdered just since we last gathered at this memorial.
Today I’d like to focus my remarks on our bilateral cooperation on security and counterterrorism. On Tuesday night, National Counterterrorism Center director Nick Rasmussen will discuss the broader U.S. strategy and draw on the perspectives he brings from Washington and the intelligence community.
Our counterterrorism cooperation with Israel is close and multilayered. We take Israel’s security extremely seriously and work very closely with our Israeli counterparts to counter a range of threats to Israel’s security from states and terrorist actors. Every week, it seems, I am hosting in my office a United States General or Admiral or Undersecretary who is visiting Israel to discuss security cooperation.
When the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, made his first trip abroad as Chairman, he came to Israel – before visiting any other country. He was back again in the spring and he met again at the Pentagon just last month with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizencot to discuss our robust military-to-military relationship.
The close coordination and interoperability between our militaries is made possible in part through bi-lateral training exercises like Noble Shirley 16, which took place this past July in Israel with about 350 Marines and Sailors from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and about 150 soldiers from the IDF. Our special forces also train together, and one of these exercises has been running for thirty years.
This past summer a delegation of 15 senior American local law enforcement officials, including Orlando Police Chief John Mina and the sheriff of San Bernardino County, John McMahon, was also in Israel for a counterterrorism seminar; after those two communities had suffered such terrible attacks. The Institute for Counterterrorism at IDC routinely consults with American professionals and we are glad those exchanges of knowledge are happening.
The United States has invested significantly in many of Israel’s most effective defenses against terrorist threats. Over the past several years, we have invested in Iron Dome and David’s Sling and Arrow 3, and have devoted extensive capabilities to shielding Israel from ballistic missiles and rockets. All of these efforts – with a multibillion dollar price tag – help protect Israel from the threat of rockets. The success of Iron Dome demonstrates that the money is well spent. Iron Dome’s incredible success rate during Operation Protective Edge – successfully shooting down 700 missiles headed for populated areas – saved countless lives on both sides of the conflict.
The fight against terrorists must always adapt to changing threats, which is why the IDF and our Department of Defense are developing anti-tunneling technology, for which the U.S. is providing more than $40 million to Israel.
In keeping with America’s commitment to preserve Israel’s qualitative military advantage, by the end of this year the Israeli Air Force will take delivery of the first F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. This is the latest manifestation in a long history of Americans helping Israel defend itself with cutting-edge airborne platforms. The Israeli Air Force has an illustrious record with American planes, from A-4 Skyhawks and F-4 Phantoms, to C-130 Hercules aircrafts to F-15s and F-16s. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Adir, will form the backbone of the Israel Air Force for the next generation and will enable Israel to reinforce its deterrent power and maintain its legendary quick response capabilities when new threats emerge in including state sponsors who support terrorist attacks against Israel. Israel is the first country outside of the United States to receive this revolutionary new aircraft.
The next decade of American military support for Israel is spelled out in a Memorandum of Understanding our countries have been discussing in recent months. “The new agreement with Israel will guide our military assistance until 2029,” National Security Advisor Susan Rice told the American Jewish Committee a few months ago, “and will be the single largest military assistance package—with any country—in American history”.
Counterterrorism is a campaign against constantly moving targets. The campaign against ISIL demonstrates this fact. These days, terrorists slip across borders and reach across borders to recruit and move money and materiel. That’s why intelligence professionals, militaries and law enforcement are refreshing their toolkits to keep pace with the changing environment. Mass attacks, we’ve learned, don’t necessarily come out of the clear blue sky, like they did on 9/11. In the past year we’ve seen mass terror attacks carried out with small arms and assault rifles, and, in Nice, France, with a truck. We also know ISIL can inspire attacks through the Internet, which is why cyber-measures and counter-messaging have become important parts of our counterterrorism arsenal.
The global struggle against terrorism requires intricate planning and coordination among countries at the military and diplomatic levels. Besides modern means of financial intelligence, cybersecurity and other intelligence sharing, it also demands the force of warplanes and drones and boots on the ground.
Today more than 60 partners contribute to Operation Inherent Resolve, our campaign to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Our coalition has carried out more than 13,000 air strikes in addition to what we are doing quietly on the ground. We are working with our partners to improve border security, reduce the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria and to cut off ISIL’s financing. As a result, ISIS is losing. It has lost approximately 50 percent of the populated territory it once held in Iraq and more than 20 percent in Syria. The group has lost a quarter of its overall manpower and its oil revenues are plummeting, along with much of its morale.
“None of ISIL’s leaders are safe,” President Obama said last month, “and we are going to keep going after them.” Indeed, we have taken out, and are continuing to eliminate senior ISIL leaders and commanders. Are we satisfied? No, because, as the President has said, “If you’re satisfied that means the problem is solved, and it’s not”. With Israel, we are in close constant contact about our parallel and complementary efforts – our broader campaign and Israel’s actions to safeguard its frontier with Syria.
The United States has been at war with terrorists incessantly since 9/11. We’ve had many successes: Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies have thwarted many plots, our military and counterterrorism professionals have disrupted terrorist networks and their safe havens overseas, we tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden, and ISIL is in retreat, but as President said, the problem isn’t solved. We continue to take very seriously the threats posed by ISIL, Hezbollah and Hamas and but other jihadist organizations, but we have no illusions about Iran’s dangerous and destabilizing influence in the region, from its nuclear ambitions to its support of terrorist proxies in the region.
Though we face significant challenges, there is reason for optimism. We adhere to a set of values that is more persuasive than the ideology of hate and destruction that terrorists wish to sow, we are pursuing terrorists in close cooperation with capable allies, and our efforts are supported by the most advanced military and cyber technologies that our enemies cannot match.
“America is an indispensable force for good around the world,” President Obama said at a 9/11 memorial at Fort Meade last year. “Our military is a linchpin in our ability to project our values, alongside our diplomatic efforts, our economy, and the people-to-people relations”.
“Because of the actions we’ve taken and the boundless energy and resilience of the American people,” Vice President Biden wrote recently in Foreign Affairs, we can be “optimistic about our capacity to guide the international community to a more peaceful and prosperous future.”
Thank you again for the honor of joining you at this conference.