Dr. Michael Oren is a distinguished historian, formerly Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, now a member of the Knesset, and many believe a future prime minister of Israel. He joined me on this morning’s program:
HH: Welcome back, America, it’s Hugh Hewitt. Joined now from Israel by Dr. Michael Oren. He is the former Israeli ambassador to the United States. He’s a member of the Israeli Knesset. And on the morning of the Orlando massacre, he tweeted out really one of the more sympathetic things I’ve seen. Terror in Orlando is the same as terror in Tel Aviv. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims. Israel knows and shares their pain. Dr. Oren, thank you for that. I wanted to give you five minutes so you could just tell the American people what it’s like to live with the omnipresent threat of terror, because the FBI tells us there are more than a thousand of these people in the United States who want to do just what this killer did.
MO: Thank you, Hugh. It’s always good to be with you, and yes, I want to reiterate that the people of Israel stand with the people of the United States. We stand for the same values. We stand for the ideas. And we’re facing the same enemy. The people who killed four Israelis at a restaurant in downtown Tel Aviv just a few days before the Orlando massacre were impelled by exactly the same radical hatred of everything we stand for and everything we are. We’re up against the same threat. It’s interesting the day after the attack in Tel Aviv, that restaurant, the place was just packed with people. People came from all over the country to have breakfast there. That’s one way of fighting terror. Terror aims to terrorize. If you deny terror the ability to terrorize us, we have come a long way to defeating them. That’s extremely important. I remember after the Boston Marathon bombing. Boston shut down for the first, for like three days, and Israelis were nonplussed. Why let them win like that? Show them that we are going to defend our way of life just by eating breakfast, not by letting them impact us.
HH: That’s, that’s…people should go to Orlando. That’s a good idea.
MO: People should go to Orlando. They should make their reservations for Disney World tomorrow. And you know, I’m not getting any percentage of the take from Disney, but that’s the way you do it.
HH: Now talk to me about how you do it in terms of prevention. I just read a story at Politico by Garrett Graff about the surveillance gap. We’ve got 48 round the clock watcher teams, but more than a thousand aspirational jihadis. Is the United States serious about this, yet? Or does it require more San Bernardinos and more Orlando until we get there?
MO: I think you have to make a transition. You have to move into a different gear. Now some, it’s going to be difficult, like for example, the way our airport security is very different than your airport security. American airport security is based on what people are carrying. Our airport security is based on the way people act, and the way they look, frankly. It’s a very different approach. I mean, you’re going to take a woman in a wheelchair and put them through a machine that’s going to see what she’s carrying in her pockets. That doesn’t interest us as much. It’s depending on, is she acting in a suspicious way? Does she have a one-way ticket without baggage? That raises an alarm with us. But it requires a kind of change.
HH: We’re having a debate, we’re having a debate which I’m sure you’re familiar with, being, you know, of dual American and Israeli citizenship. I don’t know if you had to renounce it or not, but you lived in the country so long, you know this. We’re having a gun control debate in Congress right now. I don’t know that that is particularly effective to this. What do you think?
MO: I think the gun control debate has to be separate from the terror debate. I think there is a legitimate gun control debate. You know, when you have a billion guns, licensed guns in the United States, and God knows how many unlicensed guns, it becomes an issue. We, our population, we have less than 3% of Israeli citizens own guns. And we’ve been fighting terror since the day we were created, and even before that. So you can do it without that, without that kind of personal weapon. In America, gun ownership is very much tied, attached to the notion of liberty and freedom. It’s a different debate. I do think that they should be detached, and I think that if a terrorist wants to get a gun, a terrorist is going to get a gun. And the people that took down the Twin Towers in 9/11 didn’t have guns at all. And a plane can be a weapon, too. But what I want to go back to talking about, about changing the, switching the gear. Switching the gear is, you cannot have an individual who has been under surveillance by the FBI, apparently several times, getting a job as a security guard, or you know, being able to, be able to get a licensed weapon. That is an issue. It’s not about gun control. It’s about terror control.
HH: That’s so well put. Do Americans get the capacity of ISIS, yet, Dr. Oren? I’ve been trying to educate people. They’re not a bunch of dummies in white Toyota pickups. They’re very sophisticated. I think the Israelis get this. Do you think Americans get this?
MO: I think it’s much, I think it’s much deeper than that, if I would, Hugh, and that is ISIS is an organization. It has, it controls certain territories, sort of the size of France, in Syria and Iraq. And you can bomb that organization. And it has leadership, it has a militia. And you can bomb them. But ISIS is not just an organization. ISIS, far more than that, is an idea. And that idea’s going to spring up. It’s going to spring up in Brussels and Paris and San Bernardino, in Orlando, and you can’t bomb it. You’ve got to fight an idea with another idea, and with a better idea, a stronger idea. And yes, with intelligence, yes with vigilance, yes with, you know, with greater resources devoted and allocated to fighting it, but also understanding you’re fighting an idea, which means getting into the trenches of ideas. It means getting on the internet and fighting them on the internet.
HH: Dr. Michael Oren…
MO: You know, as Winston Churchill said famously, we’re going to fight them in the beaches, we’re going to fight them on the ground, right?
HH: We’re going to fight them on the internet. Dr. Oren, come back early and often. I appreciate you finding time in your busy day in Israel to join us from there, and we can’t hear from you enough. I greatly appreciate it.
End of interview.