Home » ‘Arrogance’ and ‘Bullsh*t:’ Top Insiders Turn on Netanyahu

‘Arrogance’ and ‘Bullsh*t:’ Top Insiders Turn on Netanyahu

Fifty miles up the coast from , have documented in the months since the attack how already in May 2022, Israeli Military Intelligence was in possession of Hamas’s detailed plan for a multipronged infiltration operation. While the timing of the attack was not known, the likelihood it would actually be carried out was dismissed as low. Codenamed “Jericho Wall,” the 40-page military document was a detailed blueprint of Hamas’s plans for a massive assault that aimed to overcome Israel’s fortifications and storm military posts and Israeli communities around Gaza. Israeli intelligence knew of Hamas’s intentions of pouring its fighters en masse into Israeli territory. They had details of how it would use motorbikes, cars, paragliders and fighters on foot under the cover of thousands of rockets fired into Israel. They even understood its intentions to use explosive-dropping drones, anti-tank missiles, and IEDs to take out Israel’s elaborate surveillance systems, communication networks and the automated machine guns mounted on Israel’s numerous fortified watchtowers. In short they knew in detail of Hamas’s plans to overrun the high tech wall of concrete and firepower sealing Gaza in. On Oct. 7, the attack that Hamas—the Palestinian Islamic nationalist organization that has run Gaza since 2007 and fought six wars with Israel—codenamed “Al Aqsa Flood,” was a near carbon copy of the plans detailed in “Jericho Wall.”

Eyal Hulata was head of Israel’s National Security Council during Naftali Bennit’s and Yair Lapid’s brief premiership in 2022. He says that despite being drafted during his tenure, he never saw “Jericho Wall.” He thinks it should have crossed Netanyahu’s desk, but he doesn’t know if it was treated as serious enough to have been. “I would want to say it must have. But I cannot,” he told The Daily Beast.

Haluta sees Israel’s military, technological and intelligence advantage amidst periods of quiet as creating a confirmation bias. He believes that maintaining tight control over Palesitnians while Israel thrived led the security establishment to believe their control and the country’s security was unshakable. “I wouldn’t put it on tech per se,” he says of Israel’s failure to prevent Oct. 7. “But I will say it keeps us [in] comfortable places,” he says, suggesting Israel’s vast military technology advantages over Palestinains coaxed the country’s political and military leadership into a false sense of security.

Hulata doesn’t believe Oct. 7 was simply the result of an intelligence oversight or breakdown of the information flow in the chain of command. He thinks the problem lies in a mentality that Israel can continuously control its rule over Palestinians rather than resolving its conflict with them: “I think the policy of managing the conflict has collapsed before our eyes.”

Uzi Arad, a seasoned state security insider, says that security interests took a back seat to political ones under his former boss, Netanyahu. Puffing on a cigar on the second floor balcony of his Tel Aviv home, the former National Security Advisor and Mossad director of research is animated as he tells stories about Netanyahu’s miscalculations. He says it was self-interest that led the prime minister to pursue a policy of deepening the wedge between Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and accuses him of now putting his political survival ahead of Israeli national interests in the way he directs the war. According to Arad, Netanyahu sought to fracture the Palestinians by opposing a Palestinian state and failing to seek a political resolution in order to deliver calm in lieu of peace.

“The more he had coalition partners who were pro-settlement, and against a Palestinian state, the more he had to take that into consideration politically and even personally, the more he subjected this policy and Gaza to his overall interest,” he said.

Arad recalls meetings where Netanyahu took the view that Gaza and the West Bank should be dealt with as two separate entities and contends that in his tenure leading Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar encouraged this approach. Deceived into thinking it was a lasting durable solution, he describes Netanyahu as believing that Hamas was kept in check by a decade and a half of unending blockade amidst regular wars. He says this outlook was then adopted by the security establishment and resulted in a belief that Hamas could be placated by a modest increase in access to foreign funds and permits for a small number of Gazan laborers to work in Israel. “That theory was a flawed theory from the outset,” says Arad, arguing its adoption was for political expediency and a reassuring narrative of a dominance that Palesinians couldn’t shake. “There is a question to what extent the intelligence people were politicized in their assessment because it was comforting.”

Benjamin Netanyahu


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Centre on June 8, 2024 in Ramat Gan, Israel. Earlier today, the country’s military announced the rescue of four hostages kidnapped by Palestinian militants on Oct. 7.

Jack Guez/Getty Images

Netanyahu’s predecessor, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, is livid about the kind of war Israel finds itself in and how it got here.

“It’s all bullshit,” he tells The Daily Beast, sitting in his Tel Aviv office, which is filled with reminders of the days he was in power.

Olmert, Israel’s only prime minister to be jailed for corruption, is accusing Netanyahu, who is also on trial for corruption, of using the war to try and force Palestinians out of Israel permanently.

The only major Israeli political figure to publically call for a ceasefire, Olmert believes the Netanyahu government is using the war to transform Israel and the territories it occupies. Pointing to a ruling coalition that includes far-right settler nationalists and expansionists like National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich who have openly called for the expulsion of Palestinians, he sees a government using the war to further entrench the religious nationalist vision of an exclusively Jewish Israel between the Jordan river and Mediterranean sea.

“The Israeli government is saying openly that we will move them to Egypt,” says Olmert about threats by leading cabinet ministers to expel Palestnians. “They want a comprehensive war but a comprehensive war is made for one thing, for the chaos that will allow them to keep us in the West Bank, expel Palestinians in the West Bank and create the political conditions that will allow annexation.”

Netanyahu’s stated war goal of destroying Hamas politically and militarily was originally Olmert’s in 2008. The former prime minister still believes that had he been politically able to march to Gaza City, he would have routed Hamas with far less cost. The first PM to launch a Gaza war and the last one to launch one in Lebanon believes, however, that the root cause of the gravest security failure in Israel’s history lies in the country’s system of segregated rule over Palestinains that Netanyahu has treated as a low-cost, permanent solution.

Olmert, who was the last Israeli leader to negotiate towards a final settlement with the Palestinians, says a lack of humility and contempt for Palestinians has shaped the security and political establishment’s decision to disregard the warnings of a looming attack and failure to address the fundamental issues that paved the way for it.

“The most significant failure was arrogance and the inability to absorb the idea that the Arabs can be smart enough to do what we would have done under similar circumstances,” he says. “We thought we are the start-up nation, we are sophisticated, we are the smart guys. The Arabs, these bunch of primitives, turned out they were smart,” he says, mocking the prevalent Israeli attitude.

It’s a sentiment shared by Gonen Ben Itzhak, a senior former Shin Bet handler who arrested Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti and was credited with turning Israel’s most senior Hamas asset, Musab Yousef during the Second Intifada—the Palestinian uprising that raged from 2000-2005. He described Israel’s war as—in part—a campaign of revenge against Palestinians, noting that rather than downplaying and denying the scale of its damage to civilians, Israel has expressed pride in the staggering devastation it has brought upon Gaza. “That’s why we count bodies,” he says of Israel’s boastful broadcasting of its wrecking of the enclave.

Pardo says that even though Netanyahu looms large over Israel’s current position as its longest serving prime minister, he doesn’t think the Israeli leader and his far-right coalition partners, such as Ben-Gvir, should be exclusively blamed for seeing permanent Israeli rule through segregation as the solution. “It is our problem, all of us,” he says. “In fact, the worst ones in my opinion are those in the center, and left,” he continues, pointing to a political consensus created over nearly two decades that saw no need or urgency in changing Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. “I have nothing to argue over with Ben Gvir. He thinks the way he does,” Pardo says before contending that “50 percent of the Israeli population thinks the same as Ben-Gvir at the end of the day.” For this, he points the finger at the political left and center for not offering an alternative to Netanyahu’s plan to exacerbate Palestinian political divisions to maintain the “quiet,” while dispossessing Palestinians of their lands and depriving them of their basic rights.

For decades Israel has expanded an elaborate system of segregating Palestinians. It allowed Israelis from Tel Aviv to the occupied West Bank’s hilltop settlements—illegal under international law—to live in separate bubbles on top of or next to Palestinians and ignore them at the same time. Sealing off Gaza from the world, Israel has built towering concrete walls to cut off occupied East Jerusalem from the West Bank, which it controls with troops and dual legal systems that give Israeli settlers all the protections of Israeli civilian law, while stateless Palestinians are subject to the judgment of army officers under military law.

Comparing Israeli rule over Palestinians to South Africa under apartheid, the former intelligence chief believes the majority of Israel’s Jewish citizens accept denying rights to Palestinians. “Now I don’t want to say this outloud, but it’s natural, like the 17 or 18-year-old who in 1960 was in South Africa [and] didn’t see a black person as someone facing a predicament,” says Pardo. “When [Palestinians] try to challenge this reality, then they’re the ones who aren’t ok,” he says. “Who are they to even want rights?”

Israel’s ability to ignore Palestininians, however, didn’t last. As the images of the unfolding Oct. 7 attack spread, acute vulnerability replaced the sense of invincibility that Israelis had cultivated over the last decade and a half.

Israeli soldiers were still battling Gazan fighters to regain control of neighborhoods in southern Israeli towns and kibbutzs all around him on Oct. 8, but 23-year-old George Elkhazov was just relieved to be alive. A resident of Ofakim, 11 miles from Israel’s wall sealing off Gaza, his world and what he thought possible radically changed as he watched Palestinian fighters banging on his door through the doorbell camera.

Protestors hold signs and Israeli flags.


Protesters hold signs and flags during a demonstration calling for a hostages deal and against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the government on May 20, 2024 in Jerusalem.

Amir Levy/Getty Images

Standing on the sidewalk outside his gate hours after the attack, he pointed to where residents of the working class community were gunned down on the street.

Across the road from his small bungalow home sat a truck with Gaza license plates that carried the fighters. A green military bag and shattered glass were strewn around the bullet-riddled vehicle. According to Elkhazov, it took 17 hours for Israeli security forces to regain control of the community and release a couple that was taken hostage by Hamas fighters. Machine gun spray covers the homes and cars. Blood smears the walls of a neighborhood bomb shelter littered with bullet casings.

“I only thought this could happen in my worst nightmares,” says Elkhazov. “Now I think it will happen again.”

Living under periodic rocket fire since the build up to the 2008-2009 Gaza war, he had a sense of security provided by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. That sense was shredded when he received a call up for reserve duty while still hiding and waiting for Israeli forces to rescue him on Oct. 7. “Where were the cameras and the spotters in the watchtowers,” he says, lamenting the failure of Israel’s digital and increasingly automated ramparts around Gaza to hold up under attack.

Growing up next door to the Palestinian enclave, Israel’s blockade has been ongoing most of Elkhazov’s life. Like most Jewish Israelis his age, he has never been to Gaza as a civilian. After his experience on Oct. 7, he no longer believes that the isolated and besieged community, whose inhabitants are mostly descendants of refugees from the 1948 war, should continue to exist. “We need to flatten Gaza, erase Gaza.”

From the horror on the border, the torment felt from the attacks quickly permeated across Israel, shaking a nation as people from across the country and political spectrum united in furry, grief and desire for vengeance. After a decade and half of economic prosperity and relative security, Pardo sees Israelis in a new, less confident reality. “What [Hamas] did in the villages of the Western Negev was to show us that we aren’t invincible.”

When air raid sirens started blaring in Tel Aviv and the stories of mass killings in southern Israel mounted, Israelis transformed. The city’s cafes and bars went from being institutions of social escape that made the desperation and misery across Israel’s nearby walls feel like a world away, to a shaky refuge in an inescapable grim reality. The coffee, the music, the drinks and the billowing clouds of weed smoke stayed the same but people now gathered to talk about lost friends and family members and wonder if they could ever feel secure again. Rather than ignore the Palestinians like in the era before the war, Israeli attention focused on them as discussions about their annihilation became pervasive and hundreds of thousands of Israeli army reserves mobilized for the invasion of Gaza. Tel Aviv was no longer a place of escape from the region but a subdued city where for the first time in nearly two decades—despite the comforts—everyone felt close to the hell of war.

“We were all very furious, scared, we felt alone,” says Noam Permont, sitting in his bright fluorescent cubical office at a south Tel Aviv medical cannabis dispensary he owns in a partnership. A soft spoken, open, self-described Israeli liberal, the 45-year-old father of three who lives in an upper middle class Tel Aviv neighborhood worked in bio tech ventures as part of Israel’s booming economy before getting into the medicinal weed business. Part of the mass anti-government protests before the war, Permont remains a strong opponent of Netanyahu and the government and holds the prime minister responsible for Oct. 7. “[Netanyahu] wanted to be remembered as the protector of Israel,” he says. “He’ll be remembered as the precise opposite.”

At the same time he has supported the war and sees its scale of devastation as acceptable. “They went medieval on us and we retaliated,” he says of the Hamas-led attack from Gaza and Israel’s blanket destruction in the besieged strip. “We did what was necessary.”

Historically a supporter of the two-state solution and ending Israel’s occupation, the attacks that started this war have changed Permont’s outlook on the region. His vision of an end to occupation and a two-state solution now sounds far more circumspect and conditional. “In any future settlement, the particular security measures that will have to be taken will be extremely severe,” he says. “Let’s say separation is going be very, very, very distinct.”

In the past couple of months, a re-established sense of security is emerging in central Israel despite the country’s first, yet thwarted, Iranian missile and drone attack, ongoing fierce fighting with Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, and the war that continues to consume Gaza. In Tel Aviv, Permont sees a new bubble inflating. Anti-government protesters have returned to the streets, now targeting the government’s handling of the war but not against the war itself, and Permont describes an environment where people act as if the war is over, despite no end in sight. “We have been very, very comfortable in our bubbles. In a way this has been a wake up call,” he says. “But I don’t think it was,” he continues, describing Tel Avivians’ renewed attempt to escape reality and return to their pre-war bliss.

In an effort to establish a sense of security and deterrence that restores Israel’s confidence, the country deployed its most advanced tech and weapons to carry out destruction in Gaza on a scale that matches the national discourse of indiscriminate punishment. Israel’s panopticon-like surveillance gives it the ability to strike almost any target above ground in Gaza with precision, constantly watching Gaza from the skies and monitoring its telecommunications and deluge of metadata. Israel has also been able to survey and penetrate Hamas’s vast underground tunnel network, using specialized forces and new robotic technology, but to a much more limited degree.

Throughout this war, the massive amounts of information this surveillance produces has been fed into AI programs called Lavender and The Gospel, which use it to produce an unprecedented number of targets for the Israeli military to hit. Exposed in investigations by The Guardian, the progressive Israel-Palestine English language publication +972 Magazine and its Hebrew sister outlet Local Call, the programs not only compile long target lists in record time, but also go into incredible detail about the number of civilians likely to be killed and wounded in a given attack. The reports describe how pre-authorization of 15-20 civilian casualties has been programmed as acceptable in automated target selection for airstrikes on low ranking alleged Hamas targets.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because of his active service, a senior Israeli military official insists that it is people who sign off on the attacks with the knowledge of estimated civilian cost. A soldier reviews all this information and still decides that the attacks on Gazans are worth it, while the tech simply helps them locate and hit more places and faster. “The whole way we select targets is very human intensive,” he says. “Robots aren’t going to conduct a war for Israel.”

“Technology was probably the most helpful thing [to] eventually turn the battle in our favor,” the military official says, describing Israel’s regaining of control in the country’s south and launching its all encompassing offensive. However, Israel has yet to achieve any of its stated military objectives. Its Rafah invasion hasn’t led to Hamas’s destruction or killed its senior leadership. Israel rescued a captured soldier in October, two civilian hostages in Rafah in February, and four others in central Gaza’s Nuseirat Refugee Camp in June during the deadliest attack since December, killing more than 270 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. And yet Israel hasn’t come close to saving the vast majority of those still held captive in the Strip.

The senior official believes the war is a time for political resolutions to take a back seat to an uncompromising assault, but he sees Netanyahu’s strategy of trying to contain Hamas and treating Gaza and the West Bank as separate entities as creating “deep conceptual mistake” that led to an unforgivable strategic error. “I think they have made a very big mistake that they will live with for the rest of their lives.”

“We are fighting the war because animals came and attacked our citizens,” he says. The statement echoes comments made by Defense Minister Gallant as he cut off Gaza’s access to food, fuel, medicine and water on Oct. 9. Those words are being cited as evidence of Israel’s intent to commit genocide in South Africa’s case at the ICJ. “We are fighting an all out war against Hamas, period,” continues the military commander. “This war is different because we are fighting to eliminate them.”

Frustrated with growing international condemnation of Israel’s war, the battle-hardened soldier blames Hamas for Gaza’s destruction, dismissively describing the reality and cost of victory as inevitable. “Sorry, we will win, sorry, they will lose.”

Amidst inescapable horror, Hind Khoudary, 28, has watched Israel use the most advanced weapons systems in an inescapable onslaught that has caused her world to explode before her eyes. The Palestinian journalist who has been picked up as a correspondent by Al Jazeera English has been one of the few journalists to report on Israel’s ground invasion into the north last fall and continue reporting from central Gaza throughout the war. In November, while Israel regularly cut Palestinian phone and internet communication as it pressed its ground invasion into northern Gaza, Khoudary beat the blackouts and continued reporting using an international electronic sim card that works off Egyptian and Israeli networks. As the Israeli military pounded its way to encircling Gaza City, she was in the Jabalia refugee camp with the residents of a neighborhood Israel flattened from the air as it advanced on the ground. She watched as desperate people pulled at slabs of concrete that used to be their apartment buildings with their bare hands, trying to save unreachable loved ones under the rubble. Since launching its Rafah invasion, Israel has again made Jabalia a central target in its simultaneous assault in northern Gaza. The scenes Khoudary witnessed during Israel’s initial invasion have been repeated across Gaza throughout the war.

“It’s obvious that this attack is a collective punishment of Palestinians,” says Khoudary. She cut her teeth reporting in 2018, covering mass protests against a blockade Israel has imposed since 2007. Surviving multiple wars and a blockade for most of her life, she watched as Gazans marched on the wall Israel sealed them in with and saw a generation of young Palestinians crippled or killed by Israeli bullets. Yet the carnage of this war is something beyond what she thought possible. “I met a man in Jabalia today who knows 100 people under the rubble. He told me that he won’t flee because if he’s going to die, he wants to die with dignity.” An hour after she left Gaza’s largest refugee camp for families Israel dispossessed in 1948, Israel bombed it again.

The West Bank’s hilltop city of Ramallah, where the PA has its limited seat of government, is ten miles and a wall away from the capital Palestinians aspire to create in occupied East Jerusalem and has long felt divorced from Gaza’s fate. Since the war, however, Ramallah based pollster and political analyst, Khalil Shikaki, says that Palestinians fear the same future wherever they are. “Given what the Israelis are currently doing, the massive destruction against civilian life and civilian infrastructure is leading Palestinians to conclude that their mere existence as a people is now threatened by Israel,” says Shikaki, who has been gathering data on the Palestinian public’s perspectives since the 1990’s. “Palestinians realize that what is happening in Gaza could spill into the West Bank.”

When Gaza fighters poured into southern Israel on the morning of Oct. 7, the army immediately put the West Bank under lockdown, closing the checkpoints and freezing Palestinian movement. Eight months on, The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Ministry of Detainee and ex-Detainee Affairs has recorded upward of 9,000 people taken prisoner in daily Israeli military raids on Palestinian communities and regular clashes with Palestinian fighters. Over 500 have been killed in the raids and attacks by settlers since the war started, according to the PA Health ministry.

Palestinian cities and towns still remain largely cut off from each other with most checkpoints surrounding them still closed. The main roads between Palestinian communities have few Palestinian-plated cars as occupied commuters are held up by tight checkpoints, while their lives are regularly threatened by settlers that block intersections and attack them on their commute.

Across the West Bank, Israeli settlers have responded to the war by increasing their attacks on Palestinian towns and villages. Focusing on smaller, isolated villages, settlers have forcefully displaced 18 Palestinian communities with impunity since Oct. 7. In the south Hebron hills, European Union placards on schools they funded are now fixed to empty buildings in hamlets turned to ghost towns. It’s a message to West Bank Palestinians that they are also a target of expanding war and displacement, and that no one will protect them.

On the Israeli bulldozed streets of the northern West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp, a densely packed working class community of 23,000 people who descend from refugees from the Haifa region, fighters from the Jenin Brigade have responded to the settlers since the war. Standing in a stucco garage pockmarked with bullets on a previously paved road as Israeli drones circle overhead, “Ibn Qanun,” a Jenin Brigade fighter in his late twenties, says they have retaliated by expanding beyond the camp to ambush the army during raids. He says now they are also targeting settlers from the expanding settlements. The young man, who is aged by circumstance, sees his fate tied up in the course the war takes and since it began he feels he is fighting to support Gaza while resisting an emerging Nakba.

Ibn Qanun was a law student at the American University of Jenin when he was first arrested by Israel and jailed for eight years for taking up arms with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, but he has long given up on the idea that the law can change his circumstances for the better. Instead, he’s eager to finish our interview and rejoin the fighters patrolling the camp, checking the makeshift barricade of barbed wire and twisted rebar meant to slow army advances down. “From Israel, nothing can be won with law,” he says, echoing a growing sentiment among Palestinians that force is the only language Israel understands.

Leading Palestinian scholar Rashid Khalidi says he can see the logic of former colonial powers at play in the way Israel is waging its war. The Columbia University history professor and Edward Said Chair points to the 1945 Sétif and Guelma massacres in colonial Algeria where the French authorities responded to the killing of 100 French settlers by massacring thousands of indigenous Algerians. “If you don’t keep the colonized in their place, they’re going to overwhelm you,” Khalidi says, portraying Israel’s unrestrained military action in Gaza as a twenty-first century version of the colonial strategy of disproportionate and overwhelming force.

Khalidi says there is a difference in the gory statements being made through atrocities by Palestinian fighters on Oct. 7 and Israel since. While Israel is conditioning control and dominance, Hamas wants to force Israel and the world to reckon with the reality Palestinians have been forced to endure while their plight was sidelined.

“When you pressure people and push them into smaller and smaller spaces, make their space your space, kill them if you want and you create a situation where they have no alternative,” he contends. “Then they’re going to lash out when they see an opportunity and do unto you what you have been doing unto them as you took their land away.”

It is a feeling shared by Pardo, the former chief Israeli spy who fears what his country has become and the consequences of what it’s doing to the region. Unable to ignore Palestinians any longer, he watches as his country continues to use all its military power to force them out of sight rather than coming to terms with a reality where they live differently together.

More than eight months into the war and losing global public opinion, things are not going Israel’s way, despite all its seeming might. Charged with committing atrocities, facing increased boycotts and intensifying diplomatic isolation, Israel is also struggling to achieve its stated military goals and refuses to declare its vision for a postwar future. The Palestinian demand to end decades of oppressive Israeli rule is again being discussed by leaders the world over, as the war continues to reduce their homeland to slabs of stucco and twisted rebar.

The author of The Hundred Years War on Palestine doesn’t see this war leading to a better outcome for the people of the region.

Fearful for relatives in Gaza and worried about his family in the West Bank, Khalidi sees these political shifts in the context of the carnage. “That doesn’t mean any good change will come.”


June 2024