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Fatal complacency

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Rob has already discussed the major NYT article about the massive Israeli intelligence failure that led to the 10/7 attacks, highlighting Bibi’s failure to take responsibility as well. I want to re-up it, because the sheer level of incompetence involved is staggering:

It was 3 a.m. on Oct. 7, and Ronen Bar, the head of Israel’s domestic security service, still could not determine if what he was seeing was just another Hamas military exercise.

At the headquarters of his service, Shin Bet, officials had spent hours monitoring Hamas activity in the Gaza Strip, which was unusually active for the middle of the night. Israeli intelligence and national security officials, who had convinced themselves that Hamas had no interest in going to war, initially assumed it was just a nighttime exercise.

Their judgment that night might have been different had they been listening to traffic on the hand-held radios of Hamas militants. But Unit 8200, Israel’s signals intelligence agency, had stopped eavesdropping on those networks a year earlier because they saw it as a waste of effort.

Get that unit back on the street! Quick rips!

Even before that inquiry, it is clear the attacks were possible because of a cascade of failures over recent years — not hours, days or weeks. A New York Times examination, based on dozens of interviews with Israeli, Arab, European and American officials, as well as a review of Israeli government documents and evidence collected since the Oct. 7 raid, shows that:

  • Israeli security officials spent months trying to warn Mr. Netanyahu that the political turmoil caused by his domestic policies was weakening the country’s security and emboldening Israel’s enemies. The prime minister continued to push those policies. On one day in July he even refused to meet a senior general who came to deliver a threat warning based on classified intelligence, according to Israeli officials.
  • Israeli officials misjudged the threat posed by Hamas for years, and more critically in the run-up to the attack. The official assessment of Israeli military intelligence and the National Security Council since May 2021 was that Hamas had no interest in launching an attack from Gaza that might invite a devastating response from Israel, according to five people familiar with the assessments who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive details. Instead, Israeli intelligence assessed that Hamas was trying to foment violence against Israelis in the West Bank, which is controlled by its rival, the Palestinian Authority.
  • The belief by Mr. Netanyahu and top Israeli security officials that Iran and Hezbollah, its most powerful proxy force, presented the gravest threat to Israel diverted attention and resources away from countering Hamas. In late September, senior Israeli officials told The Times they were concerned that Israel might be attacked in the coming weeks or months on several fronts by Iran-backed militia groups, but made no mention of Hamas initiating a war with Israel from the Gaza Strip.
  • American spy agencies in recent years had largely stopped collecting intelligence on Hamas and its plans, believing the group was a regional threat that Israel was managing.

Overall, arrogance among Israeli political and security officials convinced them that the country’s military and technological superiority to Hamas would keep the terrorist group in check.

Motivated reasoning rarely has results this disastrous. And I wish I thought the Israeli right running on “we kept you safe!” will come out differently than it did for George W. Bush in 2004.

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