In the video: Galant called for a halt to the legislation: "There is an immediate danger to state security" / Photo: Defense Ministry Spokesperson's Office
The head of the research division of the Intelligence Directorate personally warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the period before the outbreak of the war on October 7 that the political-social crisis in Israel encourages Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas to act against it, and even at the same time. This was done in two letters addressed to him over the past year. This is according to a publication by Haim Levinson in Haaretz.
"We see a debate about whether to sit on the fence and let Israel continue to weaken itself or take initiatives to further worsen its situation," Brigadier General Amit Sa'ar wrote in letters at the time. His remarks, which have now been published, cast further light on the controversy over the nature of the warning given by the IDF to government officials about the consequences of the social situation in Israel.
According to the details, Sa'ar approached Netanyahu on March 19, a week before the first attempt to approve the coup laws and the attempted impeachment of Defense Minister Yoav Galant, and again on July 16, a week before the vote on eliminating the reasonableness grounds in the Knesset. To the letters sent, an appendix attached intelligence information, the inclusion of which raises the concern of an imminent danger of military escalation.
In the first document, titled "Things you see from there – how is Israel perceived in the system?", Sa'ar noted that "all the players in the system indicate that Israel is in a severe, unprecedented crisis
that threatens its cohesion and weakens it. For our main enemies, Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, this weakness is an expression of a linear process that ends with the collapse of Israel, and the current situation is an opportunity to accelerate and deepen its distress."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement to the media, November 18, 2023/Reuven Castro
The trends pointed out by the head of the Research Department were harm to deterrence, potential for arena consolidation, opportunity to harm cohesion, and harm to Israelis in the legal and international arenas. He also clarified that the analysis of the situation is not carried out from an interpretive view of reality, "but rather the basis for assessing the situation of the leadership, intelligence personnel
and communications systems. It is already leading to changes in decision-making and risk-taking by the various actors, who analyze and derive implications from Israel's internal situation."
"The internal crisis creates significant constraints for Israel that cause it to try to avoid a security escalation, and which enable it to increase the risks against it," Sa'ar wrote,
"in addition to the assessment that American and European support for Israel is eroding in a way that reduces its ability to deal with a broad security crisis."
On the possibility that Israel's enemies will cooperate against it simultaneously, the report said, "An opportunity was identified to create a perfect storm, an internal crisis, a broad escalation in the Palestinian arena and challenge from other arenas, which created multidimensional
and ongoing pressure. In our understanding, this insight underlies Hamas' high motivation to carry out
attacks from the north at the present time, and it also spurs Iran to increase its proxies to promote attacks against
Israel. All the players see an opportunity for cognitive and influential moves that will deepen the
internal rifts." Sa'ar noted that "other elements in Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad think that Israel, in its weakness, is liable to divert public attention to a security situation, and therefore will initiate escalation."
He also discussed the possibility that measures will be taken against Israel in the world as well, claiming that "the Palestinian Authority identifies the
combination of the unusual negative image of some members of the government in the international arena and the erosion of Israeli democracy and the judicial system as a real opportunity to increase the pressure on Israel in legal and political forums."
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A few days after the first letter was sent, Defense Minister Yoav Galant called for a halt to the legislative process, claiming that it "leads to a clear and immediate danger to state security." Netanyahu announced 24 hours later that he had fired Galant, and in response, tens of thousands protested across the country against the move. The prime minister reversed the decision days later, canceling votes on the coup laws planned before the Knesset's winter recess. In the following months, negotiations took place between the coalition and the opposition, but after no agreements were reached prior to the law to abolish the grounds of reasonableness, on the eve of the Knesset's departure for the summer recess.
Ahead of the second round of legislation, a letter was sent to the Prime Minister entitled "Exacerbation of the Internal Crisis – Implications for a Red Side (Enemy in Intelligence Language)." He began with his bottom line: "The worsening of the crisis deepens the erosion of Israel's image, exacerbates the vulnerability to Israeli deterrence, and increases the likelihood of escalation. While at the beginning the regional players debated whether this was another round in the ongoing political crisis, as time passes and events worsen, they believe that this is a deep crisis that has put Israel at one of its weak points since its establishment."
Sa'ar clarified that "this assessment is heard publicly, but it is also heard authentically at the heart of the assessment of the situation
of our enemies, in closed rooms and professional fictions of security officials in Iran, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. For our enemies, especially the Iranian regime and Hezbollah, this is not just an assessment of the situation, but the actual
realization of their basic worldview: Israel is a foreign plant, a weak and fragmented society that will eventually disappear."
[The situation] harms three pillars that make up deterrence: the alliance between Israel and the United States, the cohesion of Israeli society, and the strength of the IDF," he elaborated, "The connection between the crises establishes an insight among some of the players that Israel's internal situation, at the very least, will prevent it from taking significant military initiatives, with an emphasis on an attack on Iran, an operation in Lebanon, and even a significant move against Hamas in the Gaza Strip." He noted, however, that there was no change in the attitude toward military operations in the West Bank and Syria. "The preoccupation with Israel's situation does not remain only on the theoretical level," emphasized the head of the Research Department, "It is impossible to disconnect Hezbollah's defiant moves on the border and promote another attack in Israeli territory, and the Israeli point of weakness. It is also impossible to disconnect the anti-tank fire from Lebanon and the intensification of efforts to bring powerful IEDs into the West Bank from the feeling that it is time to challenge
Summing up his remarks, Brigadier General Amit Sa'ar wrote that Hassan Nasrallah posed the greatest threat to Israel.
"The internal crisis has broader implications, such as the ability to create a credible threat against Iran, but at this stage the clear and immediate danger [is] an escalation in the Lebanese arena, given the image of weakness and damage to deterrence combined with Hezbollah's growing defiance." On the day of the vote on the reasonableness law, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevy asked to meet the prime minister for a security update before the Knesset debate. Netanyahu refused to accept it before voting with the other 63 coalition members on the first significant law of the regime coup.
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