The conventional wisdom around these parts in the days following the return of Gilad Shalit in a costly prisoner exchange deal is that the much-vaunted Israeli establishment was handed a resounding failure by failing to locate the missing soldier, and proposing a viable rescue operation.
Haaretz intelligence correspondent Yossi Melman has this insightful piece, in which he reports:
A resounding failure for Israeli intelligence community and an impressive success for Hamas intelligence – this is how the 64 months of Gilad Shalit’s captivity can be summed up. This is first and foremost a searing fiasco on the part of the Shin Bet security services, the organization responsible for intelligence coverage in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Lesser responsibility – but also contributing to the failure – lies on the shoulders of Unit 8200, the main intelligence-gathering unit of the Israel Defense Forces, which helps the Shin Bet with intelligence coverage. In the ongoing shadow war, Hamas had the upper hand this time.
Melman is of course right. In the ‘shadow war’ of intelligence, Hamas did have the upper hand this time, but if one takes a longer view of the ‘shadow war’ over the past few years, a strong case could be made that Israel has had the upper hand on a number of major fronts.
07/13/2006 The identification, and destruction of the vast majority of Hezbollah’s long-range missiles in 34 minutes on the second day of the Second Lebanon War [Israeli intelligence did fail in finding and rescuing kidnapped soldiers Regev and Goldwasser]
02/12/2007 The Mughniyeh assassination [Probably the most dangerous terrorist operative in the world, and the link between Iran, Hezbollah and Syria, was killed when the headrest of his car exploded in Damascus]
09/06/2007 The discovery and destruction of Syria’s nuclear weapons facility in Deir ez-Zor [All planes returned safely home and Bashar Assad's big secret was exposed]
01/19/2010 The Mabhouh assassination [got Israel entangled into some diplomatic trouble, but no agents were caught and Hamas' chief weapons procurer was killed in an Arab nation]
2009, 2010, 2011 The assassinations, in broad daylight on Tehran’s streets, of some big name Iranian nuclear scientists.
2010 The creation, infiltration and deployment of the world’s first cyber megaweapon, Stuxnet, into Iranian nuclear facilities.
08/22/2011 Wiping out the entire leadership of the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees in one strike.
And this list is only the stuff we ‘kinda’ know about…