Hamas Strike in October: Mossad, Shin Bet, Benjamin Netanyahu and the lessons from the Yom Kippur War

The reputation of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, the counterintelligence security service Shin Bet and Benjamin Netanyahu is in question.

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Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna is a Defence & Aerospace analyst and is the Director of ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany with manufacturing units in Russia. He is Consulting Editor Industry and Defense at Frontier India.

Only those who can demonstrate their strength are accorded respect across the entirety of the Middle East. Israel did not fall apart after Hamas’s massive attack in October; on the contrary, it came together totally and will not stop its overwhelming retribution until it is done in its entirety. Hamas’s strike occurred in October. A mental shift has taken place in a significant number of Israelis, the likes of which have not been seen since the Holocaust. Since the Holocaust, there has never been a single day in which the death toll of Jews was as high as it was on October 7, 2023. Hamas has been provided with funding and backing by Israel as well as its archrival Iran; thus, ironically, this wound is one that Israel has inflicted against itself.

Both the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad and the counterintelligence security service Shin Bet have earned a significant reputation in the community of people who are concerned with international security. How was it that Hamas was able to keep such an elaborate and organised strike a secret from these services?

The first hypothesis is that the Hamas leadership carefully guarded the secrecy of the attack preparations by avoiding electronic communication and instead conducting all of their business either in person or through couriers. This is quite comparable to the method of communication that Osama bin Laden used while he was hiding out in Abbottabad. Therefore, the Israelis had nothing to listen in on or eavesdrop on.

According to the second argument, the Israeli government drastically decreased the amount of human intelligence, also known as HUMINT, because it thought that Hamas was no longer as dangerous. Had they filled those vacant positions in the intelligence agencies, they could have found something; however, that did not transpire.

The third possibility is that the Israelis could pick up on anything; according to some narratives, a few hours prior, they had some indicators that something huge was starting, and they successfully rerouted some standby units to the attack areas. On the other hand, the whole assault from Hamas was too strong for these units to be able to stop.

And finally, the fourth hypothesis is that the politicians were ineffective. It’s highly conceivable that the intelligence services had some information they conveyed to the politicians, but either the material was unclear and confusing, or the politicians didn’t pay enough attention to it, probably because Israeli political circles had been polarised in the lead-up to this incident.

In the long run, the truth will emerge.

And there is no question that this will, just like the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, have huge repercussions in Israel. At that time, the Israeli right rose to power, putting an end to the left wing’s long reign as the dominant political force in Israel. After the Yom Kippur War, it became clear who had succeeded, who had blundered, and who had not done either. It is a common misconception that Israelis were completely in the dark about what was going on and that they were taken by surprise. However, that is not accurate. The Israelis had the information; however, they were only given it a few hours before the strike. The Arabs launched their attack on October 6, 1973, but Israeli intelligence services received evidence that indicated an attack was about to take place on the evening of October 5, 1973, and they were positive that one was about to take place.

Golda Meir, who served as Prime Minister at the time, denied the request of the Israeli Armed Forces to launch a preemptive strike, stating that the international community would not forgive Israel for launching a second preemptive strike within six years. It was successful in 1967, but there is a chance that it won’t be this time. She concluded that it was necessary to suffer through the initial strike, that the Israelis should grit their teeth, and that the Americans would eventually come to their rescue. And that is exactly what transpired. The US undertook a significant airlift and gave Israel essential support. Despite his many shortcomings, Richard Nixon, who served as President of the US, took a firm position that was a major factor in Israel’s success. Meir, who bore the political responsibility for it all, was eventually forced to resign following the end of the Yom Kippur War because everyone else had to do so. This included the commanders of the intelligence services and the military.

However, even though many experts believe this could spell the end for Benjamin Netanyahu, it is still unwise to completely underestimate him. After all, he is a very experienced politician who is quite savvy regarding the games played in politics. On the other hand, it is impossible to deny that there will be repercussions, not just in the political realm but also in the security forces, just as there were fifty years before. According to the results of recent polls, Israelis want elections to be held as soon as the war is over.


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