Scathing intelligence failures have been the subject of three recently published studies.
The earliest - and, for some reason, the most classified - deals with the Rotem affair of 1960, when the Egyptian army caught the Israel Defense Forces by surprise by moving an armored division and infantry brigades into Sinai. Then Military Intelligence chief Chaim Herzog and former chief of staff Haim Laskov come under heavy flak from the author of the study on behalf of the IDF's History Department, Dr. Yigal Sheffy.
The second study, "Operation Caucasus," published by Ma'arachot in an astounding book by Dima Adamsky, tells of Military Intelligence's blindness in the weeks and months leading up to the Soviet intervention - in the form of batteries of ground-to-air missiles and fighter plane squadrons - on the side of the Egyptians in the war of attrition in 1970.
The most bitter of the surprises, on Yom Kippur, is described from the perspective of Brigadier General (ret.) Aryeh Shalev, head of research at Military Intelligence in 1973, in his book, "The Failures and Successes of Early Warning." The government and General Staff at the time made the mistake of thinking that intelligence was omniscient, while Military Intelligence officials believed that even if they made a mistake, it wouldn't be terrible because the IDF is omnipotent.
The barriers between the governmental and the military, between operations and intelligence, and between research and intelligence-gathering contributed to all three of the failures, but the severity they all share stems from the central role that early warning plays in Israel's defense doctrine. Early warning is essential when it comes to making do with a small army that calls up reserves - thus interfering with the civilian economy - only ahead of a war (that is initiated), or after an enemy attack that the regular force is trying to block, in the form of first aid.
The early warning that was amiss prior to the July 12 abduction is being investigated by Brigadier General (res.) Pinchas Buchris, the former commander of Unit 2800, also during the prior failure in the interpretation of early signs, in the abduction at Har Dov in October, 2000. Buchris is considered a stern and unbiased self-examiner who, in his day, had the sense to attach trained officers from his unit to division commanders in the North to ensure the immediate use of the results of surveillance of the Hezbollah.
However, early warning of the enemy's intention to attack on a certain date is insufficient if an even more fundamental variable has not been solved - the location of the materiel, and in the case of Hezbollah, the short-range Katyushas. The head of MI's Research Division until shortly before the war, Brigadier General Yossi Kuperwasser, wrote recently that MI was aware of the number of rockets, the types and the methods, but "we also knew well what we did not know about Hezbollah, especially the exact location of the rockets."
Without information such as this, the planning of an operation is gambling on striking chains of command and generating external pressure (in the wake of the bombing of infrastructures) that would cause Hezbollah to decide to stop firing.
The main client for the intelligence that was lacking is the air force. Intelligence, in the air force's view, can be translated into targets, into series of numbers that are fed into the planes' computers. Senior air force officers are saying that had there been such intelligence about the Katyushas, as was indeed provided by MI and the Mossad about the long and medium-range rockets that the air force successfully attacked, the Katyushas along the border would also have been destroyed quickly and effectively.
As a lesson from the Yom Kippur War, the air force appropriated for itself the job of gathering intelligence about the targets that it would be made responsible for attacking - such as ground-to-air and ground-to-ground missile batteries; but if the air force's intelligence division was made responsible for the short-range Katyushas, the division would have to expand considerably, and its head, as well as those responsible for its operations, would have to bear an additional burden that would harm preparations for higher priority missions.
Every resource dedicated to a Katyusha in Syria or Lebanon inevitably comes at the expense of a Qassam or a Shihab. Two former heads of the air force's intelligence division, Major General Amos Yadlin and Major General Ido Nechushtan, are heads of directorates (Intelligence and Planning) at the General Staff. Together with their commander, Dan Halutz, they must find a formula that, without releasing MI from its overall responsibility, will increase the intelligence and operational capabilities of the air force to prepare for missions to attack the rockets from the air.
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