Lapid
© GPO/AOA Images
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid
Israeli leaders are now working out their takeaways for the recent Gaza onslaught titled "Breaking Dawn" - which killed 49 Palestinians (including 17 children) and wounded 460 others, with hardly a scratch on the Israeli side.

It has apparently been a boon for interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid for the upcoming upcoming elections: in the immediate wake of the onslaught (which was 5-7 August), the Maariv poll of August 11 gave Lapid's Yesh Atid party the highest poll count ever — 25 seats (it has already normalized down to about 22-23 seats since). He's now beating his chest with "deterrence" talk, as he said in a televised statement alongside Defense Minister Benny Gantz last week: "Operation Breaking Dawn brought back the initiative and deterrence. Whoever tries to harm us will pay with their life."

Gantz was more specific about when and where:
"In the future, if necessary, we will carry out preemptive strikes to protect the citizens of Israel, its sovereignty and infrastructure. This holds true to every front, from Tehran to Khan Yunis."
Khan Yunis is a city in the southern Gaza strip. We should notice this point about the "preemptive strike", because that's what this "operation" was about - it was unprovoked, it was not in response to any rockets fired - it was allegedly in response to a threat which was picked up by Israeli intelligence about a retaliatory strike by Islamic Jihad in Gaza, since Israel arrested its West Bank leader Bassam al-Saadi in Jenin four days prior to the onslaught.

Let us have to look at the alleged "intelligence" leading up to this recent "operation," because that kind of intelligence is supposed to constitute a potential casus belli from now on, according to Benny Gantz. And it's also significant that the decision to launch the onslaught did not even involve a governmental cabinet decision as such.

Minister of Internal Security interviewed on the Israeli intelligence gathering

In an interview for Israeli Maariv's 103FM (Hebrew), Minister of Public Security Omer Barlev (Labor) told about that "intelligence". Let's pay close attention to his words:
"We knew, we got an intelligence assessment from both the IDF and the Shabak [General Security Service] that the reason [for the danger around Gaza] is that there is an intention to fire an anti-tank missile, specifically on a bus - it was that specific - that is, they wanted a bus with civilians, with children, to harm it..."
Interviewer Golan Yochpaz challenges Barlev on this point: "That was the scenario? The Islamic Jihad intended to hit a children's bus on the fence?" Now Barlev is not so sure anymore, and he's mumbling:
"I can't promise... to say for sure... to say that we're speaking about children, but as we know, busses are busses of civilians, or transports of children to schools, to kindergartens etc. That was his (sic) target - a murderous target... uhmm... uhmm... clearly."
We'll get back to the credibility of such information later. What's significant now is how Barlev explains this as a casus belli that doesn't even require a cabinet decision as such.

He explains that it was known that if a cell was detected engaging in such an operation, it would be acted against - and that this was something that the cabinet was "updated about". But it went further than just a limited operation of that kind. Barlev already referred to the state of alert that was introduced for Israelis, to avoid taking roads surrounding Gaza (this instruction is apparently what Labor leader and Transport Minister Merav Michaeli referred to as a a "siege", with unhinged exaggeration).

The other interviewer Anat Davidov asked:
"Beyond that, beyond that, were you [the cabinet] required to point to an operation following those three days of curfew, [stemming from] concern for that attack that you are speaking of?"
Barlev:
"Once again, the cabinet was updated, and there was not even a need to vote on it. It was updated and it was said unequivocally, and there weren't any disagreements - that the moment such an activity would be identified, we will not wait until it happens to then respond - we will act prior to that."
Yochpaz challenges Barlev again:
"But here we are speaking about something more complex. We are not speaking about hitting a cell on its way to the site of the attack, but rather that Israel, with precise intelligence, hits one of the senior leaders of the Islamic Jihad."
The argument continues, because Yochpaz is pointing out that this is different than an isolated response to a cell - he is pushing towards the direction that this is a wider act of war - and why did the State Attorney then not demand that there would be a cabinet decision about going out to such a war? Barlev: "The binding law says that only if there is concern for going out to a war - then a governmental decision is required."
Yochpaz: "What we had here is not a war? It's not a kind of war?"
Barlev: "It's certainly not a kind of war."
Yochpaz: "What, because of the limited time-scope and the relatively limited operation, can it not be classified as a war?"
Yochpaz points out that it's not possible to know whether Hamas will get involved, or Iran, or Hizbollah, whether it will develop. Barlev rejects that notion:
"We can know, because we have good intelligence, you know, now you're just putting Iran in for the confusion, come on, let's be real."
Barlev's specification of that "good intelligence" is not that convincing though:
"It was clear, that also if there will be such an action [with the anti-tank missile], it would be an act of Islamic Jihad - in opposition, apparently - in opposition to... the opinion, let's call it that, of Hamas, and to our satisfaction we saw that the Israeli intelligence sits deeply within these organizations."
Not only do Barlev's words indicate a very vague sense - he is also pointing to a strawman. Because Barlev was asked about the wider scope of the "operation", which is being pointed out to be a kind of war, he is now reducing the discussion to the alleged scope of the isolated (alleged) Islamic Jihad operation itself, which was not the question. He was not further challenged on this point.

It's worth noting that the whole transcript of the article in Ma'ariv is titled: Barlev on operation "Breaking Dawn" -
"They meant to shoot at a bus full of children"
For Israeli readers, that's the main takeaway.

It's interesting that Barlev chides Yochpaz for mentioning Iran as a kind of hallucinatory scenario ("let's be real") - because that's exactly what Defense minister Gantz did in his warning to both Tehran and Khan Yunis.

Now, is it possible that Israel got wrong intelligence?

I notice an interesting tweet by Barlev on August 6, in the midst of the onslaught (Hebrew):
There is no change in the regular procedures in Jerusalem, this despite the fake-news that terror organizations spread on the social media.
So, Barlev seems to have very little credibility for the "terror organizations," including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but he is completely confident in Israel's ability to gather intelligence. Is it possible that Israel ends up gathering fake intelligence?

Israeli leaders are susceptible to parroting fake news, are even more adept at disseminating it, and they initiate attacks on Gaza based on it.

Well, if we look back to much bigger Gaza onslaughts like that of 2014, then the answer is either yes - Israel gathers fake intelligence - or that it simply deliberately disseminates fake war propaganda in order to garner support for the onslaught. Thus, in 2014, the Defense Ministry and the office of the Prime Minister disseminated graphics of Hamas tunnels leading to kindergartens in nearby Israeli towns, to create public hysteria. No tunnels were ever used by Hamas for other than military engagement, in the couple of known historical cases. But the "terror tunnels" became the casus belli of that onslaught. Gantz, who was then army Chief of Staff (later boasting of having returned Gaza to the "stone age") disseminates fake news that he picks up from Whatsapp, straight from his phone, as he did in May at an official party meeting.

All of this is to say that Israeli leaders are susceptible to parroting fake news, are even more adept at disseminating it, and — shockingly — they initiate attacks on Gaza based on it. Will we ever know whether there was or was not an actual plan by Islamic Jihad to target an Israeli bus across the Gaza fence? Probably not, because we only have Israel's word for that, and it is notoriously unreliable.

Israeli leaders and the willing media seem to play a game of Telephone with themselves. Look how it went from "bus" to "bus with children" and then to "bus full of children". Meanwhile, you could fill a bus with all the dead Palestinian civilians, and a minibus with the massacred children, and Israelis will care very little about that, because nobody died on their side.

Former IDF Spokesperson (now head of AJC Israel) repeats the "intelligence" and war propaganda

Avital Leibovich, head of American Jewish Committee in Israel, carried on the war propaganda in a briefing on August 8th, in line with Barlev:
[T]he Palestinian Islamic Jihad actually planned some kind of deadly terror attack against Israeli targets... According to the Israeli intelligence, we understand that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad wanted to use a precise missile... in order to target probably a bus of people, maybe a bus of soldiers, maybe a bus of workers in the area, or anything of that sort, and that's why Israel decided ... to preemptively strike the PIJ and prevent this attack, and by doing so by the way also restraining other terror organizations in Gaza...
See how the target changes? Maybe it's not a bus full of civilians. Maybe it's soldiers. Maybe it's not a bus at all. Forget the details. But it was a good story. Did they mean civilians or soldiers? Doesn't matter, it's terror and we need to restrain them somehow.

Now look how Leibovich regurgitates the "terror tunnel" propaganda, mentioned earlier:
One of the challenges we face in Israel is the issue of abduction. Those tunnels [from inside Gaza to the border]... their operational goal was to send a commando unit... to the Israeli side of the border, inside a village, and try to kidnap as many people as possible, in order then to kill them or negotiate for them, or both...
This is a fabrication. The one soldier which was captured (captured, not kidnapped) by Hamas through such a tunnel was the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006, at the military position near the Kerem Shalom crossing to Gaza. Never mind that it's also not to do with the case at hand. Leibovich's assertion seems to be to simply maintain some kind of deterrence, to restrain these organizations - apparently in order to deter them from doing what they haven't even conceived yet.

Leibovich is a person with a long and heavy military background - she is a Lt. Colonel and has led the Israeli IDF Spokespersons Office. She is a professional Israeli military propagandist. Now, she works in a civilian outfit feeding the American Jewish public the stories that they want to believe.