To defeat the forces of jihadism, writes Eran Lerman, a three-pronged approach is necessary: using military and economic might to destroy the armies of Islamic State and al-Qaeda and to prevent Iran and other countries from acquiring nuclear weapons; helping to improve the socioeconomic and political conditions in countries that are recruiting grounds for terrorist groups; and working to delegitimize the religious and political ideas that motivate Islamist terrorism. Concerning the last prong, Lerman writes:
Clearly [much of this ideological warfare] must take place within the world of Islam. . . . Nevertheless, the call for internal reform . . . within Islam must be backed by a very firm message from Western leaders across the board: “Islam is not the enemy, Islamism is our common enemy.” Rejecting [the late scholar Samuel] Huntington’s thesis of a “clash of civilizations”—as both George W. Bush and Barack Obama did, each in his own way—is an important component of the ideological war. It can be used to isolate the radicals, while reassuring truly moderate forces—as distinct from [pseudo-moderates] such as the Muslim Brotherhood, who have never abandoned their basic totalitarian creed—that they have a role to play once the Islamists are defeated.
Israel can make its own discreet contributions to the global effort, and it is in its strategic interest to do so. . . . It is, [however], important that Israel, as a state, and prominent figures in its public domain, resist the temptation to pose as a frontier outpost of Western civilization against Islam as such. Such imagery might invite some Western, and specifically American, sympathy, but at the cost of playing into the Islamists’ hands.
With Israel now closely and strategically associated with several like-minded Muslim nations, most of whom are Sunni (though not all: the Azeris are Shiite), it is in Israel’s interest to draw a clear distinction between Islam as a religious civilization and the modern totalitarian perversion that presumes to speak in Islam’s name. In recent years Israel has taken symbolic measures that constitute a step in the right direction. One such example is the holding of iftar dinners by Israeli ambassadors, President Rivlin, and more recently Prime Minister Netanyahu.