The Worrying National Security Record of the Israeli Government

At this time of rising military and political tensions preceding a possible Israeli military action against Iran and the regional war that may ensue, it is worth examining the security record of the current government and to ask how trustworthy its judgement, its determination and its ability to deliver are at a time of a looming military and political crisis.

The halting of the Turkish Gaza flotilla

Most of the details are well known and were widely discussed. The Turkish terror supporting IHH organisation which organised the flotilla was not studied closely enough by Israel’s intelligence agencies. The Israeli Prime Minister left for the United States and the Deputy Prime Minister was not party to the decision making during the operation. The Defence Minister ordered the landing of soldiers armed only with paintball guns and pistols on the deck of a relatively large and crowded ship. Commanders on site went on with the landing of soldiers although many men were observed on the deck waiting for them. Terrorists who attacked soldiers with knives and iron bars were released shortly after the event without standing trial.

The infringement of the Israeli Syrian border near Magdal Shams

The IDF was surprised by the infringement despite publicly announced intentions to carry it out. When the border was infringed the small military force present did not act decisively, including with live fire, to stop immediately and completely the flow of Syrian men into the village. It was well publicised that at least one of the men continued uninterrupted all the way to Tel-Aviv where he roamed the streets for a while giving interviews to journalists. We have not heard that he was put on trial for espionage and thrown into jail for many years.

The murder of battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Dov Harari

An exemplary commander and devoted father was shot and murdered by a Lebanese army sniper in a well planned and pre-meditated attack without any Israeli provocation and during an operation to cut down trees that even the UN military headquarters agreed were well within Israeli territory. The military response was local and very limited. Israel did not demand an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council and an immediate and sharp rebuke to Lebanon. The Lebanese army learnt that the blood of Israeli soldiers and commanders can be spilled with impunity.

The terror attack on the road to Eilat

Once again – the attack did not come as a surprise and the intelligence agencies had prior information about it. The threatened road was not closed to civilian traffic. The Egyptians were not called to explain why their policemen looked the other way when the terrorists who carried out the attack crossed the border. The Defence Minister even went as far as apologising to the Egyptians for the deaths of three policemen who might have well been killed by the terrorists themselves.

The siege of Israel’s embassy in Cairo 

Israel did not fiercely protest to the Egyptians about the event itself and about the leader of the Egyptian military council Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi avoiding urgent phone calls from Israel’s leadership. Israel did not demand the urgent call of the UN Security Council and a denunciation of this action (compare that to what happened after the Iranian demolition of the British embassy in Tehran). The Israeli ambassador left and the embassy remains closed in a blunt breach of the terms of Israel’s peace agreement with Egypt, and all this to protect the ‘sensitivities’ of the Egyptian military regime.

The unauthorised flight of an Egyptian helicopter over the Negev

A Mil Mi-8 Egyptian military helicopter boldly and brazenly entered Israel’s airspace in full daylight and overflew the Negev desert for 25 minutes, in all likelihood collecting intelligence and taking photographs and completely ignoring Israeli fighter planes that were scrambled to intercept it. Here as well, Israel had presented a low and grovelling profile to the Egyptian regime after the event.

I have picked up but a few security related events to support my case. I will add that operational lessons were learnt from some of them and were implemented during similar events occurring some time later. My deep concern stems from the nearly permanent habit of Israel’s political and military establishments to fail miserably at least once before lessons are learnt. In case of an all out regional war, Israel’s survival may depend on learning and implementing lessons long before certain events happen for the first time.

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