Was There an Intelligence Failure in Israel?

AP Photo/Hatem Moussa

It is hard to look away from the atrocities committed by Hamas over the weekend. Seemingly with every hour, more information as to the extent of the horrors, the number of dead, and more trickle out, infuriating those of us who understand that Israel is one of our closest allies.

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But one question lingers, and it's one that has bothered folks who have followed affairs in the Middle East closely: What happened to the intelligence community in Israel?

It seems odd that they would have missed something like this. Israel has been keeping a close eye on Hamas for decades. It's not like they regularly underestimate them - in fact, they are almost always on top of any incursion seemingly as it happens. So a mass invasion like this, which seemingly left the Israeli military paralyzed, seems flat-out impossible.

The Associated Press noted as much:

Israel’s intelligence agencies have gained an aura of invincibility over the decades because of a string of achievements. Israel has foiled plots seeded in the West Bank, allegedly hunted down Hamas operatives in Dubai and has been accused of killing Iranian nuclear scientists in the heart of Iran. Even when their efforts have stumbled, agencies like the Mossad, Shin Bet and military intelligence have maintained their mystique.

But the weekend’s assault, which caught Israel off guard on a major Jewish holiday, plunges that reputation into doubt and raises questions about the country’s readiness in the face of a weaker but determined foe. Over 48 hours later, Hamas militants continued to battle Israeli forces inside Israeli territory, and dozens of Israelis were in Hamas captivity in Gaza.

“This is a major failure,” said Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “This operation actually proves that the (intelligence) abilities in Gaza were no good.”

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That's one of the things that leads experts and frequent observers to believe that Iran had a hand in this in some way or another. The planning for an assault like this - and, yes, it was indeed a highly planned, highly coordinated attack and not just some random raid - had to be pretty insulated for Israel to not pick up on it. The planning, then, would need to take place outside of Gaza, and Iran is one of the places that welcomes anti-Israeli terrorists with open arms. Multiple reports confirm something along these lines happened.

Sure, Iran is denying it, but there is no reason to believe a regime that lies on the world stage time after time (with no repercussions).

But Israeli intelligence officials also seemed to be ignoring warnings from outside their own network. The linked AP story above notes an Egyptian official warned Israel of "something big" happening in Gaza, but the Israelis were too busy focusing on the West Bank. 

“We have warned them an explosion of the situation is coming, and very soon, and it would be big. But they underestimated such warnings,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the content of sensitive intelligence discussions with the media.

It seems extremely odd that intelligence officials for a country constantly under rhetorical and literal siege would ignore warnings of impending threats, but if that is what happened, that would indeed be a huge failure on Israel's part.

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But, what about the United States intelligence community? How did we not pick up on anything or convince Israel it was coming? We have been keeping Iran under a watchful eye, along with multiple terror groups. Was it something we missed? Or was it something we didn't share? This bit of news from MSNBC suggests it may be the latter.

That would indicate that we knew something, though what we knew isn't clear. One can only hope that it wasn't malicious on the part of the Biden administration (one should never assume maliciousness when incompetence is at play), but the fact that Washington is concerned enough to announce they will be doing more intelligence sharing with Israel is not a good sign for the past, present, or future. 

To be fair, what's done is done, and the Israeli response to Hamas will be brutal (as is warranted, given what we've seen from Hamas this weekend). It's extremely clear that coexistence isn't possible when Palestinians and Iranians embrace Hamas and their stated goal of wiping out the Jewish state. Our media and Democratic politicians can pretend that Hamas is in some way justified in their actions, but it's becoming increasingly clear that Hamas behaved little better than animals, and they'll be treated as such.

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But in the long run, the Israeli intelligence community will need to fix what went wrong quickly, because they are surrounded on all sides by enemies. And the U.S. will need to do better in informing its allies what may be going on around them.

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