David P. Goldman
Law & Liberty, Oct. 11, 2023
“Hamas staged scenes of horror not seen in Western countries since the Second World War…. That is a deliberate instrument of war, not a mere eruption of pre-civilizational rage.”
More than 1,000 Israelis died at the hands of Hamas terrorists on October 7, by far the worst day in Israeli history, roughly triple the death count on the bloodiest day of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The Israeli military and civil society were taken unawares, and responded slowly and ineffectively. The Hamas attack uncovered deep flaws in Israel’s tactical capabilities as well as its strategic outlook. Israel’s existence depends on speedy correction of these flaws.
The term “intelligence failure” became an overnight cliché. Hamas employed drone attacks in emulation of tactics employed successfully by both sides in the Ukraine war for nearly two years, destroying Israeli observation posts and at least one Israeli Merkava IV main battle tank by dropping grenades from cheap drones. Israel introduced drones into warfare in the Syrian theater in 1983 during the so-called Beqaa Valley turkey shoot, and its failure to adopt electronic countermeasures widely deployed in Ukraine implies a failing technical edge. Despite warnings about the vulnerability of the Gaza barrier from some Israeli military intelligence analysts, Hamas fighters drove a bulldozer through the Gaza fence and hundreds of Hamas killers—the number still is unknown—entered Israel on motorized vehicles. We know this from videos released by Hamas itself; we do not know whether the terrorist organization used more sophisticated communications security measures to evade Israeli detection.
The details of the tactical intelligence failure, though, matter less than Israeli self-deception. The Netanyahu government thought that it had all strategic bases covered, and that it could bribe Hamas to remain on the sidelines as it negotiated diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. It lulled itself into a complacent haze that obscured the recalcitrant elements of the ancient world that opposed the modernizing impulse of the Abraham Accords.
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