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  • Writer's pictureTimea Spitka

Failure in Israeli Intelligence is not a Shock

Although there will be investigations for years to come, the key reasons behind Israeli intelligence failure and the massive security breach on October 7th are evident. Neighbouring countries, the EU, US, as well as national security bodies including IDF leadership, all warned Israel in recent years that Palestinian violence was escalating and they are on the verge of an explosion. All the heads of Israeli security establishment also warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the possibility of disaster in light of the internal crisis surrounding Netanyahu's insistence to pass the judicial coup legislation. Mossad became a hostile entity for the Netanyahu family, due to the position of many of its personnel regarding the judicial coup. In a rare public commentary in September, Mossad chief David Barnea said Israelis “should not underestimate the importance of unity in order to survive”. [1]

Second, Israeli secret service agents repeatedly warned the government that they were too busy monitoring non-violent activists to focus on real security threats. The ongoing absorption of Israeli intelligence and security forces on non-violent activists such as BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) and human rights supporters, diverted attention from serious threats and disillusioned advocates of non-violent movement. The tragedy is that tolerating rather than attacking non-violent Palestinian resistance activists would have lowered the support for violence.

Israeli intelligence has always relied on ’48 Palestinians’[2] and the Druze population living within Israel for cyber security and human intelligence. Discriminatory policies and cycles of oppression and violence against 48 Palestinians have alienated formerly allied minorities within Israel. Weeks before his death by ‘friendly’ fire while on an intelligence gathering operation in Gaza, a Drew secret service operative Ben-David publicly noted; “‘We have always served with love and with our whole heart in the army of a country we knew was a Jewish state…We were willing to sacrifice even our lives for this country, but when you legislate a law that is nothing but a poke in our eye, which says we have no part in this country — for us it is a personal insult.'”[3]The abandonment of Palestinian Israeli personnel working for Israeli intelligence in Gaza has been subject to silent condemnation but without investigations or repercussions. Abuse of vulnerable populations including LGBTQ + Palestinians, coerced to collaborate and gather intelligence, not only exacerbated their vulnerability but also alienated Israeli intelligence officers resulting in public resignations such as by Israel’s cyber security Unit 8200. In recent years, Palestinian intelligence officers living in Occupied Territories working under the Palestinian Authority and collaborating with Israel, have also been abandoned by Israel.

Political ignorance and arrogance at the top levels was another major cause for the intelligence failure. Underestimation of the political importance of Palestinians as well as the military capacity of Palestinian armed groups, blindsided Israeli security and government, focused on negotiating with its Middle East neighbours. Egypt repeatedly warned Israel of an impending large attack from Gaza, which Israel chose to ignore.

Most importantly, beyond intelligence and the government, the majority of Israelis have also been blind to the daily suffering of the Palestinian population living under Israeli military occupation. The complete disregard of basic human rights and needs for Palestinians and collective punishment of the two million residents of Gaza are not a justification for Hamas’ violent attack against Israeli civilians but certainly contribute to the explanation. As noted by Israeli journalist Gideon Levy; ‘Israel can’t imprison two million Gazans without Paying a Cruel Price’.[4] Although Israel and the US are now calling for moral clarity and international assistance, Israeli policies have long ignored international laws, and with the support from its allies including Canada have committed war atrocities with impunity. The reality is that impunity tends to breed impunity and both Hamas and Israel continue to justify war atrocities against civilians.

[1] TOI Staff, ‘Amid political turmoil, Mossad chief stresses need for ‘unity in order to survive’ The Times of Israel, September 7, 2023. [2] The Palestinians that have remained living within Israel's 1948 borders. [3] TOI, ‘Druze officer killed in 2018 Gaza raid had denounced Nation-State Law’, The Times of Israel, May 16, 2022. [4] Gideon Levy, ‘Israel Can’t Imprison Two Million Gazans Without Paying a Cruel Price’ Haaretz, Oct 9, 2023.

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