- - Monday, May 23, 2016

Gen. David Petraeus is now auditioning to become Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential pick. There’s really no other way to interpret his recent column in The Washington Post, slamming Donald Trump for proposing a temporary ban on Muslim immigration.

Calling Mr. Trump’s statements “hate speech,” Gen. Petraeus essentially argues that anyone who dares to tell the truth about Islamic terrorism will only incite more Muslims to become Islamic terrorists, “[by] telling Muslims that the United States is at war with them and their religion.”

That statement assumes that the overwhelming majority of Muslims from Dearborn, Mich., to Kuala Lumpur are illiterate, stupid and blind.

Practicing Muslims understand their religion far better than we do in the West. They understand that no one has “hijacked” Islam, as the apologists would have it; but that groups of Islamists, from al Qaeda to the Nusra front to the Islamic State, are seeking to apply Islamic doctrine — Shariah law — in its entirety.

You can’t win a war if you don’t know the enemy. Our enemy today is Islamic supremacism, those who seek to establish an Islamic caliphate with the ultimate goal of replacing our Constitution with Shariah law.

Rather than sweep that reality under the table, Mr. Trump has recognized that we simply have no tools at present to deal with this threat, and that the first responsibility of the president is to protect the security of Americans.

Just days after the San Bernardino shootings last December, we learned that the Department of Homeland Security had shut down an intelligence-based screening program that had identified the mosque that shooter Syed Farook attended as a recruitment center for jihadis.

Screening programs like the one whistleblower Phil Haney had devised are precisely what we need. We also need better screening at airports and U.S. consulates around the world. But programs like this take time to devise and put in place.

Critics often mistakenly accuse Mr. Trump of imposing a permanent ban on all Muslims because of their religion. But he understands that any screening program that profiles individuals because of their religion, ethnicity or nationality will overwhelm our national security system with masses of individuals who pose no threat to us at all.

A better approach is the one adopted by Israel at Ben Gurion Airport, where Israeli screeners attempt to identify actual threats by focusing on behavior and activity, not religion or ethnicity.

Ever wonder why the Israeli college kids doing the screening ask you where you were staying in Israel and what you were doing? Because they know all the hotels and how far they are from just about everything. If you say you were staying in a Tel Aviv beach hotel and were visiting family in Ramallah, they probably would ask you why you didn’t stay in Jerusalem, which is much closer.

How did you get back in forth? Did you know a taxi driver? What was his name? If you rented a car in Tel Aviv, which check point did you drive through to get into the West Bank? Did somebody tell you to go to a particular check point? And on and on.

Even good legends eventually break down. And while this intense questioning at the airport is time-consuming and often annoying, the Israelis understand that if they make a mistake, people will die.

I don’t know what type of system our national security establishment will ultimately propose we put in place. But until we have one, we in the United States are ill-equipped at present to distinguish between a nonpracticing Muslim, or a Muslim who does not accept the supremacist doctrines of Shariah law, and one who does.

The former pose no threat and are potential allies in the war against the Islamists. The latter pose an existential threat to America and must be utterly defeated.

The United States is not Israel. But we are under attack. The Islamic State has openly said it intends to infiltrate terrorists into the flood of refugees from the conflict Syria and Iraq, just as European counterterrorism authorities are now realizing they did in Brussels and Paris.

Until we can know our enemy well enough to discern between legitimate refugees and refu-jihadis, a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants is a no-brainer.

Kenneth R. Timmerman is an author. His book “Deception: The Making of the YouTube Video Hillary and Obama Blamed for Benghazi,” is forthcoming in July (Post Hill Press, 2016).

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