Netanyahu, Ya'alon and Gantz. 'Know more than anyone else what is happening beyond the border'
Photo: Amit Shabi
A prime minister, defense minister or IDF chief of staff appointed to their senior positions are amazed on their first day in office by the abundance of information placed on their table for the first time.
Every veteran politician and senior officer is familiar with this feeling: Plenty of intelligence sources pouring in from all directions. Yet they are surprised by the extent, by the depth of the intelligence infiltration and by the intelligence community's analysis abilities. They slowly get used to it though.
The political, military and mainly leadership challenge at this stage is to resist the temptation, which is huge. The Israelis know, in most cases, where terror organizations' leaders have their lunch, where missiles are hidden in Syria and what is Hezbollah members' favorite café in Beirut.
Analysis: A helicopter and two missiles killed a group of Lebanese and Iranian terror activists in Syrian Golan Heights – and now IDF and northern residents are in suspense: Will Hezbollah respond or hold back?
There is an anecdote which has been going around the IDF's Intelligence Directorate for years about Major Bieber, who was head of the Jordan branch. They say that when the Jordanian army once searched for a lost tank, Major Bieber asked his superiors for special permission to tell the Jordanians about the tank's location.
The three leaders in charge of the state's security – the prime minister, the defense minister and the chief of staff – know more than anyone else what is happening beyond the border, often more than all intelligence services together. Therefore, as aforesaid, the temptation to do something with that information is huge.
The moment they discover the location of the restaurant in Damascus where terror commanders are having lunch together, or locate a car travelling from Beirut to Tripoli with senior terrorists inside, the temptation to hit them is huge. Granted, any politician who will order an assassination operation in such a case will be applauded by the Israeli public, part of which will mumble: "May all your enemies perish like this."
But the leadership's great challenge is not to jump at every such piece of intelligence. It must resist the temptation and consider the entire state of affairs: The dynamics of the international relations, the possibility of a retaliation act which will harm Israeli civilians, the economic ramifications and the possibility that the operation will deteriorate into a war. All these materials and assessments are usually raised for discussion by the prime minister with all the relevant sources.
This history of Israeli intelligence is filled with numerous stories of missed opportunities and decisions which were made hastily and caused the decision makers to wonder whether they made the right decision.
One of those decisions which was probably taken out of the memory basement this week was to kill former Hezbollah Secretary-General Abbas Musawi – a decision which indirectly led to the death of more than 100 people in two terror attacks in Argentina in the 1990s.
This doesn’t mean that this week's strike in the Golan was unnecessary. But the statement made Tuesday evening – which was immediately denied – by a senior "security source" that Israel, which allegedly carried out the attack, was unaware of the Iranian general's presence in the attacked convoy, may point to an attempt to apologize to the Iranians, hoping that they won't retaliate.
If Israel is indeed responsible for the operation, all that is left for it to do is to apologize and pray. All the rest is out of our hands.