By Haim Bibas
The international “Theater of Terror” gradually opens its curtains and spreads like cancer into the capitals and cities of the Middle East, Europe and the United States. This “theater” searches for stages upon which to create fear, terror, blood, casualties, tension and stress. It aspires to scatter destruction and panic, to distribute its beliefs and to intimidate civilians, corporations, local authorities and governments.
Mayors are unwillingly pulled into this arena, together with their citizens – men, women and children.
The new reality in which the Islamic and other types of terror are enhanced and expanded, challenges the traditionally acceptable order. Armies would battle armies, while civilians remained at the home front and sat in bomb shelters, encouraged the fighters at the battle front and remained resilient until battle was over.
This equation has unequivocally changed.
The home front has now become the front itself, and civilians have become soldiers without uniform. Such is the case in London, New York, Paris and Toulouse, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Brussels and any other place in which the serpent head of terror can arise and attack mercilessly, in order to achieve its desired aims: drama, media, blood, fear and panic.
As chairman of the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel and mayor of Modi’in Maccabim Reut – a city positioned midway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem – I am now aware, as are my peers, of the tremendous change in the new class of warfare. No longer is it air force against air force, infantry and battalions of armies pitted against each other, but rather missiles fired upon civilians in the cities, or terror cells seeking a high murderous death toll.
Such a reality turns the local government into an essential part of building national resilience and leadership during emergencies and national security crises. The mayor, as a leader, must develop skills to motivate citizens, to calm them, to be consistent and reliable, and to present the public with crucial information, identify and manage crises, think outside the box, and maintain strong connection to national government as well as military and public security authorities.
The mayor understands that if his citizens are “soldiers without uniform” manning the “the new front”, he himself is as a “general without uniform”. His actions, behavior and functioning will influence the battle outcomes – measured not only by military accomplishments or the number of casualties, but also by the scale of security, the media and public opinion.
My friends and I, the mayors of Israel, are well aware of the magnitude of this challenge, and unfortunately, we are very experienced in it. There is almost no city in Israel that has not suffered from missile attacks in the war against terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, or faced direct terror attacks.
We constantly prepare, train and coordinate expectations with our citizens. We also pray three times a day – which Judaism prescribes – praying for the best while preparing for the worst.
I believe these global issues require global solutions in collaboration with national, regional and local governments. We in Israel are willing to share the knowledge and experience we have acquired with any authority across the world that is aware of the magnitude of this danger, and join forces in the war on terror and on those radical forces that threaten the wellbeing and safety of our citizens.
Haim Bibas is chairman of the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel and Mayor of Modi’in Maccabim Reut and will be speaking at The Jerusalem Post Conference in NYC on April 29.