Wrecking Beyond Intelligence – The Strategic Failures of Israel’s Security Apparatus

  • Hamas is neither a cohesive nor a conventional force. It is neither a nation, nor an armed force, and this is the reason why Israel needs to deal with them by developing robust and cohesive counter-insurgency measures.
  • Though Israel has a clear conventional military superiority over its hostile neighbours, when it comes to counter-insurgency and prevention of attacks from terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, it has not been able to wipe them out or reduce them to insignificance.
  • However advanced and state-of-the-art technology grows, complete reliance on technology and the downgrading of key aspects of human intelligence can be lethal for any modern combats.

The recent surprise attack by the Hamas terror outfit in Israel, by the name ‘Operation Al Aqsa Flood’ has sent several termers and shockwaves across the world, because of the scale of attacks that have taken place. Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid said that “this is the most lethal attack, on the Jews after the holocaust”. Even the spokesperson of IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) said that “this is the worst civilian massacre in 75 years of Israel’s history ”. In every sense, the mythical reputations of Israel’s intelligence forces have been busted. The notions of invincible and unbeatable, which the IDF had has now been turned into rubbles.

Most commentators across the world are attributing the intelligence failure, to be the main reason why the Israeli defence establishment was caught napping. At the same time, we do not know how Hamas, was able to breach Israeli security and enter into its deep pockets, where no one expected them to strike. But beyond this unending game of defence strategies and the smoke and mirror of intelligence business, deeper and graver reasons have emerged from prominent strategic scholars, who believe that there are deeper strategic fissures that need to be magnified and taken note of. 

Failures and Oversight of IDF

An eminent strategic scholar, Anthony Cordesman, of CSIS (Centre for Strategic and International Studies) had said that “Israeli defence forces (IDF) have fought wars in 2006, 2008-9, 2012, 2014, 2018, 2019 and 2022, and at the end of each war, they have failed to bring out a decisive degradation of extremist or terrorist groups. Each war has been bloody and has caused a lot of destruction, but no war has been able to resolve Israel’s problems with the extremists and terrorists” he is clearly indicating that, ever since the past two decades, there has been a stalemate in combating and neutralizing terrorism. Another prominent Israeli Strategic scholar, and a celebrated military affairs author, Uri Bar-Joseph mentions that the “ Quantity of the military is mainly decided by the quality of the enemy, and when the enemy is Palestinian civilians, the IDF troops spend more time guarding settlements and religious worshippers at Nablus (Holy city in Israel), rather than engaging in Rigorous training, the outcomes are clear”.

Further, he points out how the intelligence had miserably failed, and although there were some shreds of evidence such as multiple meetings of the Hamas groups, with Iranian intelligence and army officials, the regroupings and underground activities of the extremist organizations both in West Bank and Gaza were happening under the nose of the IDF radar. As per some reports, PM Netanyahu was warned by a veteran IDF and Intelligence officer that ‘something big, is going to happen in the next few weeks’, and this was conveyed to the Israeli PM a month ago. But as a combination of ignorance and not being able to connect the dots towards the larger evil strategic ambitions of Hamas, Israeli intelligence failed to predict their moves and preemptively strike the enemy. 

A major issue apart from the intelligence, which needs to be taken note of, is the disruption caused by local politics. The politicisation of Israel’s security and intelligence apparatus led to the hampering of professionalism and accountability factors, as it has affected the nature and psyche of the IDF in a significant manner. The military class entering politics and political interference in the military leading to the increased ideological and religious consciousness within the military has increased exponentially. If political interference in the military and intelligence doesn’t end, there are bound to be further antithetical repercussions. 

Role of The American Military Industrial Complex

Now, focusing on the military aid of the USA, the Americans provide a whopping 3.8 million USD in military aid, as their annual expenditure commitment. Israel has been constantly investing a major chunk of this money in purchasing the F35 5th-generation stealth fighter jets, and a huge sum of money has been invested in this. Iseal has been ordering the F35s for more than a decade now. They have so far ordered about 75 F35 out of which 36 have been delivered so far. This order includes the recent F35 deal which was finalized between US and Israel in July 2023, in which 25 Jets were ordered for 3 billion USD. Other than this, several other defence purchases are constantly being made from the USA since, which runs into billions of dollars. This clearly is an indication that the American military-industrial complex, has been lobbying steadily for the strengthening of the Israel-US alliance, and this has been going on for a long period of time.

The American Military Industrial Complex (AMIC) is a perceived informal alliance between a portion of the nation’s scientific and technological community, its defence establishment and certain sectors of the country’s military base. In other words, MIC is the relationship between military leaders, government legislators, bureaucrats and private contractors, all of whom have a stake in the national defence. With the active role of AMIC, it has become evident that most of the defence aid given to Israel has been consumed by the defence lobbies in the USA. Although it has equipped Israel and played a vital role in its military modernization, a multi-billion-dollar defence industry is thriving because of Israel.

Facing an Asymmetric Enemy

Coming to the conventional and combat capability of the IDF, it is considered one of the most efficient and effective armed forces in the world. In conventional warfare, they have a clear conventional capacity, with a strong and modernized army, with the reliance on superior technology in intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR). In comparison with its hostile neighbours, such as Siriya, Jordan and Egypt, Israel has a clear conventional superiority. However, when it comes to counter-insurgency strategies and prevention of attacks from terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, there has always been a stalemate and has not been able to wipe them out or reduce them to insignificance. Neither have the threats reduced nor have the attacks. From this, it’s absolutely clear that the indomitable image of Israel and its glorified IDF needs to face the uncomfortable truth of poor anti-insurgency strategies. The revision of IDF in this issue is long overdue. The earlier the introspection and action begin in this direction, the better it is, for Israel’s own national security. If this weakness in unconventional warfare is further exploited by Israel’s enemies, there is bound to be a major challenge to the security apparatus of Israel. 

It might surprise most people that Israel has a semi-voluntary army or a conscripted army, which technically means that more than half of Israel’s forces are reserve and irregular forces. The main infantry units and the artillery units are turnovers of the new soldiers, who are inducted and stay for a short period of time for about 2-3 years and are sent back to their civilian roles. As a result of this, not enough time is spent in their respective units, and their effective training, coordination, cohesion, integrity and jointness spirit in the operations are absent. This affects their combat readiness in a significant manner. Long training and participation in real-time combat operations are necessary for any army to handle complex ambushes and to encounter insurgent groups in an effective manner. The IDF currently clearly lacks this as most of the new conscripts just perform the policing duties of safeguarding the West Bank Israeli settlers and guarding the religious places and holy shrines. Perhaps this is the reason why several military experts are of the view that IDF forces are not combat-hardened and combat-experienced forces.  

There is no doubt that a strategic failure has occurred, in decisively degrading the extremists and in achieving the intended objectives in terrorist operations. If we look at the Gaza operations in the past, such as Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09, Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012, Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Operation Guardian of Walls in 2021 (which was a collective failure), 10 days operation in 2022 following Al-Aqsa mosque confrontation to the present Operation Iron Sword 2023, each time the IDF was back in Gaza. We’ll have to wait and watch whether the ongoing war will finally achieve its objectives or not, or will it result in yet another stalemate. 

In this asymmetric war, the Hamas is not a cohesive or conventional force. It is neither a nation, nor an armed force, and this is the reason why Israel needs to deal with them by developing robust and cohesive counter-insurgency measures. We must all remember that this war might not be an end in itself, as terror organizations have a nasty, shrewd, sneaky and deceptive way of rapidly regrouping and causing more lethal attacks with a newly charged force. But for now, the aura of Israeli invincibility and the legend of mossed have been destroyed. However advanced and state-of-the-art technology grows, complete reliance on technology and the downgrading of key aspects of human intelligence can be lethal for any modern combat, turning the entire conflict lopsided, and favouring the enemy. 

(The views expressed are the author’s own)


  1. Shekar Gupta’s cut the clutter episode 1326. The Print. YouTube. 
  2. Tessler, Mark. A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. 2nd ed., Indiana University Press, 2009. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1d10hf6.
  3. Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. By the Center for Preventive Action. Updated October 13, 2023 https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/israeli-palestinian-conflict
  4. Years of war, a rise in terrorism led to the current Israel-Hamas conflict, experts say Experts say the current situation stems from decades of disputes. By Ivan Pereira October 12, 2023 https://abcnews.go.com/International/years-war-rise-terrorism-led-current-israel-hamas/story?id=103840069
  5. Mapping the conflict in Israel and Gaza. https://www.reuters.com/graphics/ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS/MAPS/movajdladpa/2023-10-14/escalating-violence-within-the-west-bank-and-rising-tensions-at-the-lebanese-border/
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