'No more obsolete maps to combat units'

Chief Intel officer tells Post MI has boosted its relevance and capabilities since 2nd Lebanon War.

Halamish 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Halamish 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The IDF's Military Intelligence has dramatically increased its relevance and capabilities since the Second Lebanon War, when some field units went into combat with outdated maps of Hizbullah strongholds, IDF Chief Intelligence Officer Brig.-Gen. Yuval Halamish told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. "When we look back today at the past two years we are without a doubt in a different place," Halamish said in a rare interview he granted the Post in honor of MI's 60th anniversary. "Like the rest of the IDF at the time, MI was busy focusing on the Palestinian arena and that is where we invested our resources." Incidents such as units being given outdated maps before going into combat should never have happened, he said, revealing that today MI has established an advanced computerized database that stores all of the maps and other intelligence material that is continuously updated and can be distributed to relevant units on short notice. "We now have updated materials at all levels and this never ends," he said. "Today, the technological capabilities are very advanced and allow us to create material in real time and store it in computer databases." On Wednesday evening, MI will celebrate 60 years of operations at a festive ceremony in Latrun that will be attended by Halamish, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and President Shimon Peres. Reflecting on the past 60 years, Halamish said that MI has had many successes but unfortunately also some failures - particularly before the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. He said the branch did not forget its failures and used them to improve. "Someone who doesn't recognize his past will have difficulty looking to the future," Halamish said. "MI has had failures in the past alongside many successes, which since they are not publicized like the failures are not well known by the public." Intelligence work, he said, was extremely complicated since "your mission is to infiltrate and understand the adversary as if you are part of him." That is why, he said, the IDF invested major resources in recruiting the best people to MI. "The IDF understands that intelligence superiority and excellent intelligence is vital," he said. "The mission is to obtain and bring relevant and effective intelligence to the IDF so we can win in every confrontation." Halamish said that one of MI's major challenges today was retaining officers who were offered lucrative positions in the private sector. "Much depends on commanders and the challenges the officers face, Zionism and their readiness to serve," he said. "If it is money they are looking for they would go to hi-tech, where they start with double the salary I can pay them." Another challenge, he said, was finding soldiers who knew Arabic or Persian to serve in MI. "There are not many high school students who know Arabic today," he said. "We need these people, since in the end we need to understand what our enemies are saying." That enemy, he added, was advancing and improving its capabilities just like Israel and was continuously trying to gather intelligence on the IDF. Since the Second Lebanon War, when the IDF discovered advanced Hizbullah listening posts, the IDF has improved its level of security and now forbid officers from entering sensitive meetings with cellphones. "They are progressing and improving capabilities and, just as I gather intelligence on them, they gather [intelligence] on us," he said. "There is more awareness today since this is a real threat... We understand what the other side wants to know and what it is looking for."