An intelligence chief who publicly rejects the government’s characterization of a war, whose poor professional judgment led to catastrophe and who has a history of contemptuous insubordination simply cannot be trusted.
Immediately after the blackest day in Israeli history, a consensus formed that we must wait until after the war to investigate how Hamas was able to invade the country, slaughter 1,200 innocents and get away with 240 hostages. There’s a lot to recommend this position.
We’re at war. Now is not the time for action, not recrimination and trials for failed generals, security chiefs and politicians. Good or bad, you go to war with the army and leaders you have. People have jobs to do, and our job is to let them do theirs.
While reasonable on its face, there is a problem with delaying a reckoning. At least in some cases, it seems clear that the people whose failures enabled the Hamas attack are not capable of bringing us victory.
Case in point: Israel Defense Forces Intelligence Directorate Chief Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva. In the weeks since Oct. 7, more and more information has come out about why Hamas was able to pull it off. All of the information points to Haliva and his close subordinates.
The Field Observers unit at Nahal Oz base suffered the greatest losses there during Hamas's assault. The unit, comprising female soldiers, is responsible for monitoring the footage from security cameras along the Gaza border around the clock and alerting forces on the ground and in the intelligence community to anything suspicious.
Seventeen observers were killed on Oct. 7. Seven were taken hostage. One, Naama Levy, was videoed barefoot, being dragged from the trunk of a vehicle by her hair and pushed into the back seat. Her hands were zip-tied behind her back. The seat of her sweatpants was stained with blood, indicating she had been raped violently.
One observer, Ori Megidish, was rescued by the IDF in early November. Another, Noa Marciano, was filmed in a hostage video, first alive, and then dead. Her body was later recovered by IDF forces.
Days after their friends were slaughtered, raped and kidnapped, the two surviving members of the unit and a number of former members started coming forward to tell their story. In interviews with Channel 11, two women related that in the months before the invasion, they were warning it was in the works. The women saw Hamas terrorists training to take over kibbutzim and IDF bases. They watched terrorists practicing taking hostages and blowing up tanks. They saw terror commanders watching the drills. They saw spies probing the fence for weaknesses. They saw it all and reported it all.
Rather than giving them medals, unnamed top-level officers in the intelligence corps ordered them to stop. When they continued reporting, the observers were warned that they would be disciplined and removed from the unit if they kept raising their concerns.
The observers weren’t the only ones silenced. Rafael Hayun, a civilian hacker who monitors open intelligence networks, worked for the IDF for years. The IDF provided Hayun with equipment to monitor Hamas’s internal communications. In late 2019, Hayun began reporting on Hamas training exercises involving invading Israel, penetrating the security fence at multiple points, taking over communities, committing mass murder and kidnapping. Over time, the training became more intense and detailed. Hayun alerted the units he was working with about Hamas’s activities in real time.
Five months before the assault, his colleagues in the IDF were ordered to seize all of his equipment and stop working with him. Around the same time, the IDF’s Intelligence Directorate Unit 8200 signals intelligence unit also stopped monitoring Hamas’s communications.
Hayun said that his military colleagues told him the order to cut him off came from “senior leadership,” and they had no explanation for the decision. Hayun told reporters he is convinced that if he had been listening in the weeks before Oct. 7, the invasion would have been prevented.
Hayun and the observers weren’t the only ones who recognized what Hamas was doing. As Channels 11, 12 and Haaretz all reported, a tactical intelligence NCO and Hamas expert in Unit 8200 with 20 years of experience began providing detailed reports on Hamas’s preparations for the invasion in May 2022.
In a series of three, increasingly detailed and urgent reports over succeeding months, the NCO set out in granular detail how Hamas was preparing a broad invasion of Israel that included the invasion of IDF bases, border towns and kibbutzim. Her reports included all aspects of the invasion that took place on Oct. 7, including Hamas’s use of paragliders, pick-up trucks and motorcycles. She detailed Hamas’s plans to massacre and kidnap civilians and soldiers. She warned that their intention was to use provocations along the security fence in the weeks leading up to the operation to get the IDF used to breaches and so lull its commanders into complacency. She even secured Hamas’s own training manual for the operation. She was able to get the information in front of Unit 8200’s commander and a top officer in the Southern Command. They apparently did nothing.
Convinced by his subordinate’s reporting, her commander, an NCO with 30 years' experience, canceled a family vacation because he heard Haliva would be visiting their base. He waylaid Haliva, and he and his subordinate presented her reports. Haliva dismissed their warnings and detailed information as hot air. Hamas, he insisted, was just pretending, to make an impression on its followers. He did not communicate her report to either the head of Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) or the IDF Chief of General Staff.
The NCOs weren’t the only ones who saw what was happening. As Channel 11 reported on Tuesday, in May 2023, the Gaza Division’s intelligence officer created a slide presentation titled, “The Walls of Jericho,” setting out in detail how Hamas intended to bring down the security fence and invade Israel at up to 60 separate points, invade the division’s bases and enter civilian communities to commit mass murder and seize hostages.
In a follow-up report from August, the intelligence officer even explained that Hamas intended to carry out its plan either on Shabbat or on a holiday when only a small cadre of soldiers would be on duty. His work was dismissed as unrealistic and out of line with Hamas’s true intentions by senior intelligence officers at Tel Aviv headquarters.
At 4 a.m. on Oct. 7, due to warnings of increased Hamas movement near the border fence, the senior security leadership, including IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevy, Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar, Southern Command Commander Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman and Haliva’s assistant (Haliva was apparently asleep), discussed the movements and decided to go back to bed. Bar sent a small team of fighters to the border area, but that was all. The group didn’t inform the Gaza division commander, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Instead, they agreed to speak again at 8 a.m. Hamas invaded at 6:30.
Since at least 2022, Haliva and his colleagues in the Intelligence Directorate and the top echelons of the IDF and the Shin Bet were convinced that Hamas was deterred. Hamas, they insisted both in public statements and in intelligence briefings to political leaders, was interested in providing economic prosperity to Gaza. In one speech, Haliva spoke derisively of an unnamed political leader (between the lines it was apparent he was referring to Netanyahu) who had questioned his judgment.
“In one of the meetings, I don’t want to divulge where, a closed, classified meeting, someone—I won’t say who—said to me, ‘Intel Chief, your view is as good as mine.’ I responded, ‘Look, I respect very much your position and standing, and your leadership. But your narrative isn’t as good as my narrative, because behind my narrative stand professionals,’” he said.
What Haliva failed to mention was his habit of ignoring everything the professionals told him and not sharing their information with his superiors.
All of this would be bad enough. But it becomes even worse when seen in the framework of the 10-month insurgency the Israeli left waged against the Netanyahu government. That insurgency was led by Haliva’s family. His ex-wife and the mother of his children, Shira Margalit, is married to Ilan Shiloah, a senior advertising executive. Margalit and Shiloah stood behind much of the political unrest that Israel has experienced since last year. Haliva’s daughter spoke at anti-government protests. His son’s twitter feed is filled with anti-Netanyahu invective.
Haliva reportedly did not share the mountain of information his professional intelligence corps gathered on Hamas’s plans. But he reportedly repeatedly warned Netanyahu that his government’s legal reforms were emboldening Israel’s enemies and increasing the likelihood of war.
In theory, all of this could be set aside until the end of the war, except Haliva’s actions since Oct. 7 indicate that he is still informed by his false narrative about Hamas. On the eve of the ground invasion, Netanyahu addressed the public. He explained that the war is Israel’s “second war of independence,” and that it presents Israel with an “existential challenge.” In other words, Israel has no choice but to win. Netanyahu defined victory as rescuing the hostages, destroying Hamas as a military and political entity and preventing it or any other terror group from rising in Gaza ever again.
Three days later, in his first public remarks since Oct. 7, Haliva rejected Netanyahu’s description of the war as an existential conflict. Speaking to graduates of the Intelligence Corps officer training course, Haliva insisted, “It’s a war we have no choice but to fight. It isn’t an existential war.”
The difference between an existential conflict and a non-existential conflict is self-evident. You must win a war for your state’s existence. You can fight to a draw for a lesser conflict. An intelligence chief who publicly rejects the government’s characterization of a war, whose poor professional judgment led to catastrophe and who has a history of contemptuous insubordination simply cannot be trusted to act in accordance with the government’s directives.
Oct. 7 was not prevented because many people in positions of responsibility failed the people of Israel. In most cases, it is probably reasonable to wait until after the war to part ways with them.
Haliva however, needs to go. Now.