Former Israeli leader encourages war on terrorism

Lolita Harper

NEWPORT BEACH -- On a clear, crisp Tuesday night, lightning struck at

Temple Bat Yam.Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak -- whose last

name means lightning in Hebrew -- enlightened a captive audience with his

views on security against terrorism and the state of affairs in the

Middle East. More than 600 people gave their undivided attention to the

former military hero turned world leader.

Israel's 10th prime minister led the country from 1999 to 2001. During

that time, he worked toward peace with the Palestinians -- a

controversial decision heralded as heroic by some and misguided by

others, said Rabbi Mark Miller, who coordinated the lecture.

Barak, 59, spent most of his life battling terrorism in his native

country, he said. He was a 22-year-old soldier when he was first sent to

command a raid against terrorism.

"If someone were to have told me 37 years later that terror would

still be a major challenge -- on a global scale -- I would not have

believed them. But this is reality, and we have to face it," Barak said.

He warned of a long battle ahead and said people should realize that

our sophisticated and complex civilization is highly exposed to terrorist

threats. Those responsible for the deaths of nearly 3,000 people in the

East Coast attacks were capable of far worse offenses, and therefore the

struggle to end terrorism worldwide is urgent.

"We must destroy world terror or be destroyed," Barak said.

He called for cooperation of intelligence agencies, as well as

military and economic powers. Unyielding leadership and spirit are also

required to wage -- and win -- the war over terrorism, he said.

People must be willing to sacrifice during the fighting of this

lengthy war, Barak urged. Some personal liberties will have to be

abandoned to allow law enforcement officials the ability to penetrate

terrorist groups, and immigration and money laundering laws must also be

tightened and heavily enforced, he said.

Poised confidently at the lectern, Barak congratulated the U.S.

government on its actions since Sept. 11.

"The U.S. is doing an impressive job," he said.

His comment was met with thunderous applause.

While addressing weighty world issues, Barak interjected his charm and

wit, telling personal stories and jokes to illustrate his points. He

spoke for nearly two hours and was thanked with a standing ovation when

it was done.

He connected with the audience, drawing on the connection that all

Jews have to the holy land of Israel.

Barak said he was optimistic about peace in the Middle East. Strong

leaders, who are inevitably willing to make "the painful decisions," are

the key to a solution in the historical conflict between Israelis and

Palestinians, he said.

"It might take a long time before there is a real change in attitudes

on the most profound levels," Barak said, adding that people must be

realistic. "It will change only through education, which will take


Israel can be made stronger even if it controls slightly less land, as

long as the country becomes "more Jewish," Barak said. Leaning toward the

crowd in his conservative dark suit and crimson and blue striped tie,

Barak called for "his fellow Jews" to support a strong Israel.

"Within your own societies, make Israel strong and make the backbone

of every Jew around the world strong," Barak said.

* Lolita Harper covers Costa Mesa. She may be reached at (949)

574-4275 or by e-mail at o7 lolita.harper@latimes.comf7 .

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