National Security News

Reporting the facts on national security

National Security News

Hamas Israel

Former Israeli Intelligence Officer Calls for Political Solutions Alongside Military Action in Gaza

Ami Ayalon, former director of the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence service. (Source – Riva Press for Le Monde)

Israel must win the battle of ideas if it is to defeat Hamas and bring an end to the fighting in Gaza, a former head of the Israeli Intelligence Service has said.

Ami Ayalon, who led the Israeli security agency Shin Bet in 1996 said that it was not enough for Israel to destroy Hamas in battle, it must give the Palestinians the opportunity to embrace a two-state solution.

The former intelligence chief dismissed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategy of completely destroying Hamas. 

Instead, Ayalon argued: “We must win the battle of ideas if we are to defeat Hamas.

“We are winning every battle on the ground, but true victory will come from presenting a better idea. The only way to defeat an idea is to present a better one, and in our case, that means offering a political horizon for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Ayalon, a politician and author, who was also a member of the Knesset Labour Party, argued in a BBC Radio 4 Today programme interview that Palestinians would cease to support Hamas if they believe in the possibility of gaining their freedom with the end of the occupation of Gaza.

He said: “Hamas has thrived because their popularity is rising. But once Palestinians see and believe in a different horizon, which is their freedom, they will not support Hamas.”

Despite being the head of the Shin Bet, which was in part responsible for enforcing the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, Ayalon said that his views on Israeli policy had evolved over time.

He said: “I stopped believing in the occupation. It was a process. During the first Intifada, I used to believe we were liberators. But encountering unarmed women and youngsters in refugee camps made me realise I was seen as an occupier, not a liberator.” 

He now believes that cooperation with Palestinians was key to achieving high levels of security Israeli civilians demanded.

He added: “We understood that the only way to achieve security was through cooperation”.

When asked what he would do if he were in Netanyahu’s position, Ayalon outlined a three-tiered approach. 

He said: “First, I would announce that the only future securing Israel’s identity as a Jewish democracy is a two-state solution. 

“Second, I would emphasise seeking victory through diplomacy and political achievements.

“Third, I would state that if a political agreement is reached, Israel has no mandate over the West Bank and Gaza. This land is ours, but it is not only ours. Palestinians are here to stay, and so are we. We have to divide this piece of land.”

When asked about dividing the land, the implications for Israeli settlers considering their growing numbers, and whether this means removing the settlers, Ayalon responded: “In my dream, I want to believe, and it’s not a dream, I’m not naïve. In the last talks between Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert, they had a subcommittee to discuss the future of settlers who wish or want to stay in Palestine.

“The status and the number, the figure and I think the best scenario is, we have a minority of Palestinians as Israeli citizens, and I want to believe that they would be able to have a Jewish minority in Palestine. I couldn’t believe that it is possible until the Al Jazeera papers were leaked.”

Ayalon also commented on reports from Gaza of Israeli soldiers strapping a wounded Palestinian to the front of a vehicle.

A screenshot from social media footage showing an injured terror suspect strapped to an Israeli vehicle as it drives through Jenin, 23 June 2024. (Source – Reuters)

He said: “It is war, and I have been in too many operations and campaigns. We are losing our identity as human beings. 

“I don’t want to mention the British or Americans what they did in Afghanistan or Iraq, it happens in every war. It is a tragedy in our case, and this is why it is so important to end the war. We are losing our identity as human beings, we are losing our identity as a democracy and we are losing our security.”

Isabella Egerton is a leading intelligence specialist and investigator focused on state led level security investigations. She has a proven track record in running complex multi-jurisdictional intelligence projects around the globe.