Israel must deeply revise its intelligence gathering and assessment system

The gathering and research systems in AMAN and the Shin Bet suffered a strategic failure and did not warn of the brutal attack by Hamas on the Israeli settlements near the border of the Gaza Strip. The great failure necessitates the drawing of lessons and a deep revision of the intelligence gathering and assessment system, AMAN and the Shin Bet must undergo a sharp and deep surgery to remove all the diseases they have contracted.

Israel has not  fully  recovered from one of the serious diseases that characterized its intelligence system in 1973 and that is the disease of the mistaken intelligence concept that resulted in it being surprised in the Yom Kippur War.

This time, 50 years after the war, Israel was again surprised by the Hamas organization also due to a mistaken conception that Hamas is deterred by Israel, but it seems that this time it was not only a problem of a mistaken intelligence assessment but also a problem of a major failure in the intelligence gathering system for all its units.

The head of the National Intelligence Service, Major General Aharon Haliva, admitted fully to the intelligence failure, at a graduation ceremony for intelligence officers on October 29, he said: “The intelligence division under my command failed in its most important task of giving warning for the war, as the one who heads the organization I bear the ultimate responsibility for this as I emphasized from the first day of the war.”

Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar also admitted his responsibility for the intelligence failure. The complacency and arrogance at the top of the political-security elite undoubtedly affected the intelligence system as well and they seeped down to the lowest levels in AMAN and the Shin Bet that deal with intelligence gathering and from there they also flowed to the analysts who deal with the assessment of the raw intelligence.

Little by little, the concept was built that “Hamas is deterred” and that Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, is supposedly “moderate” compared to the other members of the Hamas leadership.

The IDF and the Shin Bet ignored the offensive strategy of Hamas as manifested in the rocket attack initiated by Muhammad Def, the supreme commander of the military wing of Hamas, on Jerusalem in May 2021 which resulted in the “Guardian of the Walls” operation.

This was the first sign of what is expected to happen to Israel in the future.

Israel’s intelligence failure is in the two main areas in which intelligence deals: gathering intelligence and assessment of it, therefore the serious situation in the Israeli intelligence system requires a serious revision in these two areas, not only punishing those responsible for the failure, but a deep and comprehensive revision of systems.

The failure in the field of intelligence gathering in the Gaza Strip on the intentions of Hamas began many years ago, since the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and the war in the Gaza Strip in 2014.

The Israeli intelligence system knew that it had a major problem in gathering intelligence on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, therefore Israel tried in November 2018 to penetrate the special communication system of the military wing of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the secret operation of the “Sayeret Matkal” special unit of the IDF in Khan Yunis intended for this purpose failed and Hamas found out the weak point of Israeli intelligence and the difficulties it has in gathering quality intelligence on the capabilities and plans of its military wing.

The Shin Bet’s and Unit 504’s attempts to recruit agents in the military wing of Hamas failed, and the visual intelligence ultimately brought reliable intelligence about Hamas’ preparations for the attack.

A few weeks before the Hamas attack on the Israeli settlements, when IDF observers detected unusual activity along the border line in the Gaza Strip, the intelligence system ignored the signs indicating the preparations for the attack and did nothing.

The success of the military wing of Hamas in preventing Israel from obtaining quality intelligence about its activities and the sophisticated deception operation it engaged in, thanks to which it surprised Israel, is a strategic success that made the surprise attack on Israel possible, Hamas is a dangerous and sophisticated enemy that managed to overcome Israeli intelligence, which is considered the best intelligence in the Middle East.

Israeli field intelligence unit provided signs indicating the expected attack by Hamas through the observations along the border, just as in 1973 it provided intelligence on the preparations of the Egyptian army to cross the Suez Canal, but the ranks above it refused to believe the facts.

The glorified unit 8200. The largest of the Israeli intelligence units, failed to warn of Hamas’ attack intentions, as did the Shin Bet and Unit 504.

They did not have any agent at the top of Hamas who would provide advance information on the Hamas attack plan and its timing.

And what is most important to check is how the research division of the military intelligence AMAN and the Shin Bet research division built the wrong concept that “Hamas is deterred by Israel” and that it is turning to calm and the restoration of the Strip and not to escalation.

Immediately after the end of the war, Defense Minister Yoav Galant must appoint a special projector, preferably a former head of military intelligence or the former head of the Shin Bet, to immediately draw lessons in the field of intelligence, we must not wait until the results and the recommendation of the commission of inquiry that will be appointed to investigate the failures of the war, it should take a long time and in the meantime the intelligence system must recover from the failure and continue its work, the threats to Israel from the axis of resistance led by Iran are not going to disappear but to increase and the IDF cannot afford another intelligence failure.

Yoni Ben Menachem Senior Middle East Analyst

About Yoni Ben Menachem

Yoni Ben Menachem is a Middle East senior analyst ,a journalist and
the former CEO of the Israel Broadcasting Authority(IBA). He has
decades of experience in written and video journalism. Ben
Menachem’s path in the media world began as a producer for
Japanese television in the Middle East. After that, he held many key
positions in the media The Israeli: CEO of the Israel Broadcasting
Authority, director of “Kol Israel” Radio, reporter on West Bank and
Gaza Strip affairs, political reporter and commentator, commentator
on Middle East affairs and editor-in-chief and presenter of the
program “Middle East Magazine”. 

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