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Feb 19 2024

Q. Israel’s Feb. 12 rescue of two hostages held by Hamas in Rafah appears to have drawn on superb intelligence. So why talk now about intelligence failure regarding Gaza?

AThe Feb. 12 rescue required tactical intelligence. It is strategic intelligence that failed on October 7.

As we shall see, Israeli intelligence failures related to the Gaza War continue to this day. Due to the bankruptcy of Israel’s political leadership, there is reason to be concerned about the health of the Israeli intelligence establishment on a wider scale than even the catastrophic scandal of October 7.

Q. Better begin by recapping the failures of October 7 and the period that preceded it . . .

AThe mother of all the intelligence failures was Prime Minister Netanyahu’s concept of ‘economic peace’. This strategy claimed that a Hamas that has a constant flow of funds at its disposal to improve the lives of Gazans will not be interested in attacking Israel. Hamas cleverly cultivated this fiction. Qatar financed it. No one seemed to notice that development funds were diverted to Hamas’s military buildup. The Israeli leadership allowed itself to be duped.

Permitting thousands of Gazan day laborers to enter Israel gave the concept flesh-and-blood expression. Mssrs. Bennet and Lapid, both short-term prime ministers, inherited and endorsed the concept. Both Netanyahu and Bennet, who oppose the two-state solution and covet the territory of the West Bank, also saw this as a way to divide the Palestinian leadership and polity (between Hamas-Gaza and the PLO-West Bank), thereby delegitimizing the notion of a negotiated two-state solution with a single Palestinian entity.

For some 15 years, then, Israel’s elected leadership appeared to subscribe to the fiction that this was an economic conflict--not religious, ideological, territorial or historic. It even knew as long as a decade ago of the Hamas attack plan, yet chose to ignore both Hamas’s intentions and its capabilities.

This was a strategic failure that makes the October 1973 Yom Kippur surprise look almost like child’s play. It was born for political and ideological reasons, filtered down through Israel’s strategic and intelligence ranks, and dictated a host of radically mistaken measures and attitudes.

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Latest Strategic Analysis
Yossi Alpher's Death Tango: Ariel Sharon, Yasser Arafat and Three Fateful Days in March
death tango cover final copy.jpg

"Anyone seeking to understand how Israelis and Palestinians traded the hopes of Oslo for something approaching hopelessness is well-advised to read this book. With penetrating analysis and elegant prose, Yossi Alpher has told the gripping story of three days nearly two decades ago that continue to haunt would-be peacemakers. Yossi’s faithful readers will not be disappointed with his latest effort."

Ambassador Frederic C. Hof, Bard College

"A riveting account of the crucial days in March 2002 when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was profoundly changed for the worse. The peace camp has never recovered from those wrenching days, and we live now without any hope of a just settlement. Alpher is a highly respected expert who has spent decades studying this conflict from both sides."

Bruce Riedel, Director of the Brookings Intelligence Project

"A critical assessment of a key period in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict never before presented in such detail. The best and most capable players at the executive and political levels proved unable to forge any resolution, final or partial, because both parties continued to maintain an insurmountable gulf between themselves. This is a MUST read for anyone daring to tackle the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and of Israel-Arab relations in general."

Efraim Halevy, former Head of the Mossad (1998-2002)

Yossi's New Book:

Oraib Khader and Avi Bar-On are youngish Palestinian and Israeli bachelors with security experience, readiness to do business with one another, a shared fondness for women and money, and total cynicism about the lack of peace between their two peoples.

Oraib and Avi can never become true friends: the cultural and political gaps are too wide. But as they confront a failed peace process and a bleak peace future, they readily become business partners: shady business that exploits a lot of naïve international peace aspirations.
As Oraib sums up on a visit to Sarpsborg, Norway, where the ultimately-failed Oslo peace talks were held, “There is a lesson here for those who still doggedly and hopelessly pursue a two-state solution in the Middle East. Get smart. Get out of the Israeli-Palestinian peace business. Step back and let the Jews and Arabs screw one another while making money.”

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