Twenty-two years ago today, al-Qaeda simultaneously attacked U.S. cities with airplanes filled with unsuspecting passengers, murdering thousands of Americans. At the time, Mark Regev was a spokesperson at Israel’s U.S. embassy; he began that fateful day preparing for an official visit from then-Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer on September 12. He recounts his experience:
It wasn’t too long before my colleagues and I were instructed to exit the embassy. But with the defense minister arriving the next day, and so much still to do, my immediate reaction was to view the evacuation directive as unnecessary. I attributed it to the legendary overzealousness of embassy security which was always prioritizing safety at the expense of everything else.
Ambassador David Ivry was a former commander of the Israel Air Force (IAF), deputy IDF chief of staff, director general of the Ministry of Defense, national security advisor, and long experienced at handling a crisis. . . . When I barged into his office, Ivry must have thought my behavior somewhat detached from reality. For when I complained that the security people were preventing me from preparing for Ben-Eliezer, the ambassador looked at me and said: “Mark, you don’t understand, there isn’t going to be a visit.”
[In Israel, then-prime minister Ariel] Sharon set the tone. In a televised address to the nation, he proclaimed: “The fight against terrorism is an international struggle of the free world against the forces of darkness who seek to destroy our liberty and way of life.” Israel, he declared, was prepared to provide the U.S. with “any assistance at any time.” . . . Across Israel, many hoped that with America experiencing Islamist terror firsthand, Washington policymakers could now better appreciate the realities that Israelis had been facing daily.