When asked if it was an exaggeration to label the carnage in Paris as a manifestation of World War III, the Israeli defense minister replied: "We're already there for a while now. There are those that bury their heads in the sand and try to define it as a social problem, or try to define it as something else. What we have is Jihadist Islam that is calling to destroy Western culture."
Ya'alon lamented that nations "are not prepared as needed" in this ongoing war and expressed hope that "they will wake up and prepare themselves accordingly, in terms of defense, security and also in terms of offensive actions, in order to properly deal with this threat."
A day earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu equated an Israeli father and son killed Friday by a Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank to the scores of innocents slaughtered in Paris by operatives of the Islamic State.
"In Israel, as in France, terrorism is terrorism and standing behind it is radical Islam and its desire to destroy its victims," Netanyahu said at the start of a Nov. 15 Cabinet meeting. "The time has come for the world to wake up and unite in order to defeat terrorism. The time has come for countries to condemn terrorism against us to the same degree that they condemn terrorism everywhere else in the world."
Israeli counter-terror and diplomatic experts here roundly condemned remarks by Netanyahu and his defense minister as demagoguery and a malicious manipulation of the Paris tragedy for political purposes.
"I'm not surprised they jumped on the Paris tragedy," said Shimon Stein, a former Israeli ambassador to Germany. "Sadly, this is a very old argument, where Israel tries to draw parallels or, conversely, to tell the world 'I told you so.'"
In a Monday interview, Stein said Israel has a very difficult time "understanding why some of our best friends in Europe don't equate victims of terror in New York, London, Madrid and now Paris with victims of terror here. The answer is that here, terror is widely perceived as a manifestation of a national struggle between us and the Palestinians whereas over there, the nature of terror is perceived as being radically different."
According to Stein, "If the defense minister thinks that what happened in Paris is a third world war, he has a right to say so. But Europeans and the Americans will not draw such parallels."
Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at www.opall-rome.com.