Is the Hamas Offensive Really an Israeli Intelligence Failure?

Posted: October 9, 2023 in War
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Or could it be a lot more complex than that?

by Richard Martin

Here is why I believe the IDF and intelligence-security apparatus are most likely not the ones to blame: historical precedent. I predict that the current CGS will be fired after the dust settles. No politicians will accept blame and will still be around to declare how they were the ones who won the war.

Israel will hold a commission at the end of this whole operation to ostensibly find the reasons for the debacle. For some perspective, the chief of the general staff in 1973 was Lt Gen David Elazar. He raised alarms about the Egyptians arming to the teeth with tanks and SAMs by the Soviets, some of which were actually operated by the Soviets. He and others said the Bar-Lev Line was mostly for show. He was contradicted by most politicians, who thought he, as well other soldiers, were crying wolf. “How can the Arabs attack and defeat us. Didn’t we humiliate them in the Six-Day War?” After the war there was a commission (Agranat). Elazar was sacked and the all the usual political suspects stuck around, most notably Dayan, who had been one of the most dismissive of Egypt’s intentions and capabilities. (Dayan was instrumental however in the negotiations for the Camp David Accord which led to a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. And that’s what led to Sadat’s assassination in 1981 by the Muslim Brotherhood).

Politicians like to ignore military advice. They surround themselves with “strategic experts” and delude themselves into believing that they know. We see it in all domains, not just in matters of national security and grand strategy. The military, even in Israel, is forced to make hard choices by politicians, which is fine for countries like Canada and the US, which are far from immediate threats, or at least believe they are. The battle between guns and butter is easily resolved. It’s butter for the masses and the cronies. The resources that are devoted to defence and security must be allocated so that the masses and the cronies get their piece. Here in Canada, where we can barely maintain a reasonable defence budget to meet all of our commitments, the Liberal government just announced a $1 billion cut to the already meagre defence budget. The minister of national defence, a dolt if ever there was one, has publicly stated that it won’t affect readiness. Meanwhile, the CDS has openly said the opposite, essentially saying “How can it not?”

In the case of Israel, most of the public and the political class appear to delude themselves on a cyclical basis into believing that the Arab Fedayeen (whatever they call themselves) can be kept at bay or somehow mollified. They endorse the building of wall, border fences, border patrols, etc. The only problem is that wall and fences only work if they are covered 24/7 by observation and fire (or the peacetime equivalent, police intervention). But when you force your military to rely on material and technical solutions to resolve political dilemmas, they will do their best to split the difference. They will come up with “economy of force” solutions like walls, and cameras, and “quick-reaction forces.”

An obstacle, whether a wall, a fence, an anti-tank ditch or dragon’s teeth, is only good to delay and canalize the enemy. Everything that happened in the Hamas attack since Saturday occurred during that period between infiltration and reaction, much less mobilization.

Is that an intelligence failure? No. It’s a reality of Israel’s situation, including the political and governance realities of a population that wants to live in peace and invest in the good life while minimizing the investment in physical security. Maybe Israelis should be allowed to carry automatic weapons everywhere they go. Perhaps that will be one of the results from this operation.

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