I’m watching TV on Monday afternoon in an America that sounds distinctly rattled, a few hours after an Islamic State thug has threatened to strike at the US as a follow-up to the massacre of innocents in Paris. And like I always do when I’m away from home, I’m thinking a lot about my vibrant, embattled and demonized Israel.

The CNN screen blares “US cities step up security after Paris attack,” and “New ISIS threat of attacks includes Washington,” and the network is showing and interviewing a stream of politicians and military chiefs and security experts. They tell viewers that protecting every cafe and concert hall from potential terror attack is just impossible. They describe Islamic State as the worst terrorist scourge they can recall. They argue about whether President Barack Obama is right to insist that he will not be putting boots on the ground to tackle IS in Syria and Iraq.

The talking heads, from the president on down, it seems to me, are rather lost. Dianne Feinstein, a senator for more than 20 years who has sat on powerful foreign affairs and intelligence committees, has just mumbled something incoherent about the need to “get the Western world together” to “provide some elements of safety.” A succession of Republican would-be presidents are urging the tough-sounding but thoroughly generalized smashing of IS on the ground. “We should destroy them,” declares Jeb Bush. “I want to fight them in their backyard, so we don’t fight them in our backyard,” barks Lindsey Graham. The president has just slapped down his critics at a press conference, dismissing their suggestions in much the same way he used to brush off Benjamin Netanyahu’s objections to his Iran-empowering nuclear deal: “Folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they would do? Present a specific plan,” snaps the president. (Netanyahu did precisely that on Iran, of course, not that it helped.)

Statespeople and commentators have called the November 13 bloodbath “France’s 9/11.” In many ways, though, it was the day Paris sustained a terrorist assault that resembled, indeed dwarfed, the kind that Israel has endured for years. Not even in the course of the Second Intifada, the strategic onslaught of Hamas and Fatah suicide bombers that battered and bled Israel in the early years of this century, did our terrorist enemies manage to massacre 129 of us in one evening. It just took them a little longer: In March 2002 alone, some 120 Israeli civilians were killed by Palestinian terrorists.

People rest on a bench after being evacuated from the Bataclan theater after a shooting in Paris, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. A series of attacks targeting young concert-goers, soccer fans and Parisians enjoying a Friday night out at popular nightspots killed over 100 people in the deadliest violence to strike France since World War II. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

People rest on a bench after being evacuated from the Bataclan theater after a shooting in Paris, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. A series of attacks targeting young concert-goers, soccer fans and Parisians enjoying a Friday night out at popular nightspots killed over 100 people in the deadliest violence to strike France since World War II. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

As bombers and gunmen targeted our buses and our shopping malls and our hotels and our colleges and our restaurants, we did two things that France, the US and the rest of the free world will have to do if they want to defeat this latest, particularly despicable Islamist terror iteration: We learned how to reduce our vulnerability to terrorism, and we tackled the killers in their centers of operation. Short-sightedly, hypocritically, and abidingly, the international community, including most of the Western world, barely understood the need for the former strategy, and castigated us for the latter.

We made it harder for terrorists to kill us by doing what those CNN experts are saying is impossible: yes, protecting all our cafes, and restaurants, and shopping malls, and hotel entrances, and buses, and every other public place where our citizens gather, with barriers and metal detectors and security guards; all these years later, suicide bombers still can’t just walk into our theaters and concert halls. We bolstered our intelligence-gathering in the viciously hostile Palestinian territories, notably including the West Bank cities from which we had withdrawn years before in the vain quest for peaceful coexistence. And to the ongoing fury of misguided critics everywhere, we built a security barrier — a mix of fences and sections of wall — so that Palestinian suicide bombers could not just drive into Israel and blow us up. We became a nation of domestic security analysts, gauging where to shop and whether or not to take the bus as we sought to minimize our exposure to the killers. And we toughed it out.

The Park Hotel on the night of March 27, 2002, after a suicide bombing killed 30 Israel people (Photo credit: Flash 90)

The Park Hotel on the night of March 27, 2002, after a suicide bombing killed 30 Israel people (Photo credit: Flash 90)

We also took the offensive, notably after that black March 2002, when we launched a major West Bank military operation to destroy the “infrastructure” of terrorism in the West Bank — the bomb-making factories and the bomber-indoctrinating production lines. Much of the international community, ill-served by some particularly pitiful journalism, misrepresented the operation, echoed false Palestinian claims about the death toll, and — notably led by then president George W. Bush — insisted that we stop and get out. But we didn’t. And that’s why, in 2015, when the current Palestinian political, spiritual and media leadership is stirring up its people to again kill the Jews, we’ve been enduring murderous stabbers and car-rammers, rather than mass-murderous suicide bombers. So far, at least.

France, the United States and the rest of the West are now grappling with many of the anguishing dilemmas we have lived with for years. How do you maintain your liberties, the West is asking itself, while tackling enemies who abuse all freedoms? What kind of laws need to be enacted? Who do you allow across your borders? Under what circumstances should preventive arrests be made, and suspects held without trial, and the internet surveilled, and incitement constrained? Not easy, is it?

There is no absolute defense against terrorism. And there are no offensive panaceas either. But there are effective strategies.

Israel would not have survived without them

How do you minimize the murderous threat to your citizens without getting too many of your soldiers killed? And without killing too many of the (often terror-supporting) civilians among whom your enemy is embedded? That’s another one we’ve long wrestled over. We left Gaza in 2005, Hamas seized power in 2007, and three times since then we have been drawn into conflict by the Islamists’ relentless attacks on Israel. But we know we can’t destroy the extremist ideology by force. And we don’t want to get dragged back into the Gaza quagmire. A man once said: “We can retake territory. And as long as we leave our troops there, we can hold it, but that does not solve the underlying problem of eliminating the dynamics that are producing these kinds of violent extremist groups.” That man was President Obama, speaking on Monday, about Syria and Iraq. You’d want to think, right now, he’s understanding just a little bit more of the challenges we’ve been facing.

President Barack Obama concludes his news conference following the G20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey, Monday, November 16, 2015. (AP/Susan Walsh)

President Barack Obama concludes his news conference following the G20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey, Monday, November 16, 2015. (AP/Susan Walsh)

You’d want to think, right now, that he and the other well-intentioned world leaders who have been telling us to take risks for peace, telling us that we can securely relinquish adjacent territory even in our treacherous Middle East, telling us that we don’t know where our best interests lie, are internalizing that maybe, just maybe, it’s not so simple. Maybe we Israelis, stubbornly resisting internationally prescribed policies that we fear might constitute national suicide, aren’t such fools after all.

I’m not holding my breath.

In fact, I’m waiting to see how many more prominent figures who should know better will follow the lead of Sweden’s foreign minister and contort themselves to somehow partly implicate Israel for the evil actions of a death cult that has persuaded its followers to kill and be killed in the name of god. That argument is so risible it can hardly be articulated: If only we’d done what the international community told us to do, the claim apparently insinuates, and given up the West Bank like we gave up Gaza (placing our entire country at grave potential risk in the process), Islamic State might not have massacred 129 people in Paris and would not now be threatening the United States.

Honestly, words fail.

At the very least, however, I do recommend that the leaders and security chiefs of France and the rest of Europe and North America reach out to those Israeli counterparts they’ve so often judged and critiqued, to benefit from our bitterly accumulated experience in fighting Islamist terrorism.

There is no absolute defense against terrorism. And there are no offensive panaceas either. But there are effective strategies.

Israel would not have survived without them. Friday in Paris signaled that the rest of the free world needs to adopt many of them too.