- Conferences and Seminars
How Do We Define Intelligence, Operations and Politics in Israel?
Book reviewed by Dr. Adnan Abu Amer for Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations
The book which was published in June 2011 discusses what has been known as the “Israeli Intelligence Community” and the extent to which such a small country as Israel needs this number of security establishments. The most notable among these establishments are the The Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations (Mossad), Israel Security Agency (Shabak), and Directorate of Military Intelligence (Aman). The intelligence services are studied in light of their recent failure to detect the status of the forces hostile to Israel. On another hand, the book exposes their failure to predict a number of international, regional and local events which occurred during recent years and had major influence on the state and its future besides the formulation of alliances with a number of parties on the internal and external levels.
Title: How Do We Define Intelligence, Operations and Politics in Israel? (in Hebrew)
The book has raised critical debate within the Israeli security and intelligence establishments due to the unprecedented “audacity” of its authors who come from the intelligence institutions. Besides, it has gained special priority as it covers the shortcomings and failures which plague the intelligence institutions.
Further, the book sheds light on the most notable structural problems within such establishments including the size of coordination among them, the process of decision-making and the impact of politics on their work. Moreover, it addresses their predictions for prospects of peace and war in the region following the global electronic development and its impact on the structure and work of these establishments, especially after the exposure of some of their secret work in the past.
At the same time, the book lauds the major and decisive role of the Israeli intelligence services in wars launched by Israel against its internal and external enemies. It stresses that Israel would not have been able to fight its enemies without the information provided by these apparatuses which are charged with maintaining security—inside and outside Israel—and detecting espionage activities. In addition, it attests their prominent role in assassinations, arrests and harassments to subjugate the Palestinians and abort their uprisings.
The book also tackles the responsibility of the apparatuses for collecting information about Israelis running for sensitive posts where thousands of agents work undercover around the world. Moreover, it points out to their accountability before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
The Critical Role of the Security Services
The authors say that those intelligence services have played the decisive role in the war against the Palestinian Intifadah and the different resistance forces. This role is pursued through providing political leaders with the necessary information via a network of spies to help make critical decisions. Moreover, all operations carried out by the army depend primarily on the information collected by the security services through their agents, especially the assassination of eminent leaders and cadres in forces hostile to Israel.
The book extensively casts light on the regulatory nature of these establishments and their senior leadership, including department heads and leaders of major units who usually have high expertise in the field of intelligence work and espionage. The ranks among its leadership are equivalent to those of the Army General Staff officers ranging from Major to Major General and Brigadier-General.
On another hand, the book reveals a long series of failures which distorted the image of the intelligence services and embarrassed Israel, while causing major damage to its international relations. The most notable of these failures is the assassination of a Moroccan waiter in 1973, who was mistakenly believed to be the senior Palestinian official Abu Hassan Salameh. The intelligence services involved Israel in the Lebanese quagmire in 1982 after providing false and misleading information about the situation there. The failures also included the arrest by the US authorities of the Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard in 1985, the failed attempt to assassinate Khalid Mish‘al in 1997, the scandals revealing the use of forged European passports in the assassination of Palestinian figures in Syria and Lebanon in 2004, in addition to disclosing the details of the assassination of Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, in 2010.
Moreover, the book reveals failures which the authors say could not be seen with the naked eye. These have to do with the failure to develop a stance regarding certain local, regional and international events. These events include the surprise fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet regime, the launching of Iraqi missiles on Israel in 1991, the movement of the Syrian forces in Golan Heights in 1996, al-Aqsa Mosque tunnel events in 1996, the expected military action of Hezbollah following the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, the Second Lebanon War in 2006, in addition to Hamas’ victory in the 2006 elections and its control of the Gaza Strip. The book stresses that these failures have had a negative impact on the status of Israel and its foreign relations and policies with different countries.
The authors criticize a number of security establishments for getting the army involved in some failed military operations due to intelligence rather than logistical deficiency which does not understand the enemy whether in Palestine or Lebanon. It was clear that the failed security data showed that the army was not well-prepared for all the scenarios. Apparently, the book attests, one of the problems in these military confrontations was the high expectations based on the false security reports!
Regarding the army, the book deals in details with the Israeli efforts made during the last years to rehabilitate its military infrastructure, strengthen and update its arsenal and reconsider its strategic military doctrine. In this context, the book displays a number of recommendations provided by workshops held by the General Staff and military research centers with the participation of senior generals from different sectors. It also reveals a number of conclusions to rehabilitate the army in terms of its structure, strategy and armaments, which can be summarized in the following points:
1. Increasing the number of soldiers rather than reducing it as was decided previously, in the Infantry and Armored Corps.
2. Reinforcing the army with two armored brigades, updating the air force, development of multi-layered missile defense system against long range land-to-land Scud missiles, mid range and short range missiles.
3. Improving the ability of land maneuver and the ability to employ fire from a distance, in addition to prioritizing maneuvers over the employment of fire, on which the failed air theory was founded.
The authors consider that the list of failures which undermined the Israeli deterrence power has caused the “dissolution” of the military force perceptions. This dissolution has been manifested at different levels:
A. First level: The belief prevailing in the last decade that the likelihood of the outbreak of a war between Israel and its neighboring countries in the first circle is low. It considered that the essential threat comes from the countries located in the second circle such as Iran and from the Palestinians, on the internal level. This explains why the training and allocation of resources were focused on these two. Whereas some divisions and weapon programs were cancelled and the Reserve System did not undergo proper training in preparation for possible outbreak of war in the first circle.
B. Second level: The estimation that in case war broke out in the first circle then Israel would have to maintain the status quo without causing its change. Thus, it was claimed that it would be sufficient to curb the “enemy” with accurate fires such as air and artillery shelling while there is no importance for territorial areas and land training. However, preferring fire to maneuver and territorial areas needs reconsideration because the focus on the destruction of the enemy’s tanks approaching the borders means focusing on protecting the state rather than its security.
C. Third level: This level is represented in the enthusiastic adoption of the “results-oriented stategy” adopted by the US military. The aim of these operations is to paralyze the opponent rather than destroy it through attacking its leaders, the means of communication and the military positions. However, these ideas led to the illusive belief in achieving victory through the mere employment of accurate fire without blood, tears or sweat. Yet, the war took place in the first circle, in contrary to the expectations while Israel had to fight a guerilla war, which does not have a clear system of action or central locations.
Security and Military Biography
The first author, General Farkash, 63 years, was born in Romania. He held several high-level military and security positions in Israel between 1966 and 2006. He participated in most of its wars starting with the War of Attrition in Suez Canal between 1968 and 1973 to Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank in 2002. He also served in south Lebanon and was involved in subjugating the first and second Palestinian uprisings. Farkash served in a variety of roles and headed the Israel SIGINT National Unit (8200), after which he held senior positions in the Planning Branch for five years. Promoted to the rank of General in 1998, he subsequently served as Head of the Technology & Logistics Branch until 2001; he then was appointed to lead the Directorate of Military Intelligence (Aman) from 2002 to 2006 where he had a major role in passing many strategic decisions. At the same time, he faced harsh criticism for his intelligence failure in predicting Iraqi attack against Israel with unconventional weapons and not expecting Libya to build nuclear weapons. However, he succeeded in expecting Hizbullah to launch heavy rockets from south Lebanon.
Farkash received a B.A and M.A in Middle East and Islam Studies from Tel Aviv University in addition to AMP/ISMP from Harvard Business School. He is currently the President of the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI).
Dov Tamari, 75 years, served in the Israeli army between 1954 and 1982 in the Paratroop Corps and was the commander of the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit. Tamari participated in many battles since the 50s of the last century including the Six Day War, the War of Attrition, the Yom Kippur War and the first Lebanon war. He received high-level military honors. He received his BA and MA in history and later his PhD on the “reserve in the Israeli army” from the University of Haifa.
After the end of his military service, Tamari worked as a researcher in Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies then adviser to the Institute of Technology in different areas. He is currently a lecturer and researcher on military doctrine and battle management, in addition he teaches at the Beit Berl College.
Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 3/8/2011