I think they both acquitted themselves badly in their dispute, but I can’t get over David Bernstein’s ridiculous claim that Glenn Greenwald is more obsessed with Israel than he is. I don’t think Greenwald will provide his own subjective limit as to what would be a “proportionate response” because he’s not really interested in anything that might distract him from his self-righteous moral outrage.

A page I frequently linked to has dissappeared from the internet. With the help of the internet archive I’ll preserve it here. It was originally at http://haganah.org.il/harchives/005011.html and was titled:
Fighting New Terror – Theory and Israeli Experience

By Isaac Ben-Israel


Ideology and Special Services
Materials of the Russian-Israeli Conference
Moscow, 15-16 June 2005
Kurginyan Centre

Sergey Kurginyan: Now I’d like to pass the floor to Isaac Ben-Israel, former Head of Research & Development Department, Ministry of Defense. His presentation is on theory and practice in fighting new terrorism in Israel. Mr. Ben-Israel is also a scholar, author of several interesting books on the philosophy of intelligence.

Isaac Ben-Israel: Good afternoon!

Before I start speaking on the topic, I would like to join my colleagues and thank Professor Kurginyan and his team, who have done their best to bring us here. And, if only some 15 years ago, when I was working for the military intelligence, someone had told me I would be walking along Red Square and visiting the Kremlin – I would have definitely sent this person to a mental institution.

Now, let us proceed with the topic. Theory and practice.

As to the theory, there is a model, which is mostly all maths and it takes some time to understand it. As to practice, I would like to describe Israeli very intensive anti-terrorism effort over the past 4-5 years.

As we are restricted by time, I am going to make the maths model description as short as possible. I will be mostly speaking about practice, of course, because I believe certain systems and practice of anti-terrorism wars, which are being elaborated in our region could be applied elsewhere.

Some words on the model.

  • A “system” is a finite set of components which function jointly for a certain goal.
  • “System Information” is the information contained in the order and internal relations between the components.
  • System Redundancy Hypothesis: a system cannot function without a certain measure of back-up.
Fig. 1. Theory of System Collapse

This is actually a “System Collapse Model”. We all know that a military division, for example, cannot function as an organic unit having lost 25-30% of its heavy equipment. Why? Why cannot a 4 brigade division having lost one quarter of its forces be restructured into a 3 brigade one to carry on military operation even if it is on the smaller frontage? Why does this division just fall apart?

And this is true not only for military divisions, but for terrorist organizations as well, by the way. We have applied this model in the recent years. This is a thermodynamic model which analyzes the disorder inside the system.

Speakers before me have already talked about the “World Order” and the “World Disorder”. I do not want to go too far into the theory depths. Generally, any system is defined by the amount of information within its components which ensures their interaction. Any system means order. Respectively, disorder emerges when the amount of relevant information inside the system is below some critical level.

Back in the 30’s and 40’s of the 20th century the US scientist Claude Shannon and later Kholmogorov in Russia developed a general maths model describing the functioning of such systems.

“Information” is measured by the minimal number of bits needed to describe the system in binary language.
(Claude Shannon, Kholmogorov and Algorithmic Complexity).
Original Function: M bits
Back-up: ΔM bits
Overall info: Mc=M+ΔM
Fig. 2. Information Measure

I am not going into the details now. In case anyone wants to discuss this specific issue, this could be done tomorrow within the framework of our planned discussion, I suppose.

In general, I can define any system as some structure consisting of various components which assure both the system’s existence as a single whole and also have their own objectives. In a division, for example, there is a certain number of combat units, plus logistic systems ensuring the communication and interaction of those combat units. There are also some, so to speak, repair shops, as something always goes wrong, especially in a big and complicated system.

This implies that any division should have certain support services, a kind of “redundancy”. At the same time they cannot be excessive. On the one hand, “the more the better”, but on the other – you cannot carry all that on your own back, you know.

That is why the following optimal model is usually constructed: we take what we use most of all, something that we are sure or likely to need, and exclude everything we might not need at all (or are unlikely to use it).

So, look at the very last line.

For natural systems, the amound of required redundancy for full compensation of errors is close to the lower limit which is necessary for full back up, that is
Rreq≈Q(q) where
Fig. 3. Natural Redundancy Efficiency Hypothesis

We are arriving at a formula, which states…

Sergey Kurginyan: One comment here. As some people here know Stirling’s approximation, and some don’t, I would like to clarify that here Isaac Ben-Israel is seeking the minimal extraction of the system, under which the system collapses. If you just remove a sand grain, the system will not fall. But what if you remove a stone? How many stones and which stones are to be removed? The military can easily understand that, can’t you? What part do we need to destroy so that the whole stops functioning. What minimal component will suffice.

And when he is coming to the question which elements can be withdrawn, he is doing that within Kholmogorov-Shannon theory and Stirling’s approximation.

Here is an example for those of you who are not familiar with those approximations. Say, a person has had a stroke. With one type and scale of the impact his brain goes on functioning and the personality remains intact, but the do not in another case. Where is this critical impact resulting in system collapse?

Isaac Ben-Israel: In general, the underlying idea is: each system has its own critical point. If I know where it is, I hit this point and destroy the whole system. If I do not know this, I will have to go on hitting different components of the system until I accidentally hit the critical point. The more components I damage, even without hitting the critical point, the closer is the moment when the system disintegrates.

And there is a certain connection between “q” – which is the percentage of component interconnection – and “Q” which describes the probability of the whole system collapse.

  • When the rate of component failure q is 11%, the probability Q(q) for total system collapse is 50%
  • When q=25%, Q=81%
  • When q=50%, Q=100%
Fig. 4. The Probability of System Collapse

So what does this formula tell us? In case the damage level of the components (q) within the system is 50%, the system will definitely stop functioning. There are simply no systems capable to withstand the malfunctioning of half of its components. In case q is 25%, there is still an 80% probability of its falling apart.

For example, in the Middle Ages the Plague, or “Black Death” as they called it, in case the number of infected and sick got close to one fourth of the population, all the others would simply leave the city. There are many examples from various fields of systems’ behavior in similar situations. I will not be discussing that in detail as we are short of time.

Let us better move on to practice. How is this model applied in Israeli practices, how does it work? Here we have a graph describing 4 years of terrorists’ Intifada.

This is the number of casualties in Shahids’ (suicide bombers) attacks only. I did not include war casualties and casualties outside the so-called “green line”. I did this purposefully – not to dive into the depth of the problem about which there is still no international consensus: is it a guerrilla war or terrorism?

When a suicide bomber explodes in a bus – it is 100% terrorism, no one can claim it’s a guerrilla war. In March 2002 we had a sad record: 140 killed. Then the numbers went down as you can see from the graph. They did not fall to zero, of course, because throughout the history of the State of Israel and living close to our neighbors we never had zero terrorism. It began even before our state had been created, in the early 20’s last century. And during 1988-1999, what we call “years of peace” – still about 40 people were killed annually.

So what happened, what had to be done in order to break such kind of dynamics?

Triangles show the total number of terrorist attacks of Shahids. Diamonds – the “successful” acts: a Shahid was able to kill someone. Rectangles – the ones which were aborted. As you can see after March 2002 there was an abrupt decline in the number of casualties. This can be explained by the fact that we came back to Judea and Samaria, tha is, back to the territory between the Jordan and the “green line”. We occupied this territory again and practically immediately we had an actual positive dynamics.

We mobilized or reinforced the intelligence sources we had there – both human sources and technological ones. We could employ those freely. We increased the scale of intelligence operations and respectively we started receiving ten times more information on those involved in the terrorist attacks conspiracy.

Then a query comes: did they decrease the number of attempts for terrorist attacks? Or did we get more successful in withstanding them?

You can see the following correlation: despite our losing fewer people, the number of attempts increased. There were twice as many of such attempts as we used to have in March 2002. So terrorists were building up their activities, but the result is racing to the lowest level.

2003 saw the drop even in the number of attempts. What happened? Why did the number of attempts go down to the number we had before the terrorist Intifada? Moreover, the rate of attempts is going down to the pre-Intifada one.

I must say that Israel changed its policy twice during this time interval. When Intifada started we had a different Prime Minister – Ehud Barak. He based his policy on the assumption that Mr. Arafat, the Palestinian leader at the time, was a true disciple of von Clausewitz.

Before the start of the Intifada Barak and Arafat had talks about some peace treaty. Arafat wrecked the negotiations and Intifada blew up three months later. And then Barak decided Arafat was using terrorism as a continuation of policy. In other words the negotiations failed, and Arafat used the weapon of terror.

Therefore Israeli policy was “allegedly containment”. “Let us try to yield some more to Arafat; let us start negotiations; let us find out what he wants. Maybe we could persuade him to get back to other, peaceful means”.

Nothing came of it: terrorism was growing, probably even at a higher rate. Then the Cabinet fell and Sharon came to power.

Sharon’s course was different: To put up with nothing! We must knock the teeth off Palestinians! However, his main concept was similar to that of Barak: Arafat was the main engine of terrorism, so he (Arafat) was able to put an end to terrorism, which he (Arafat) currently employed to reach some goals. The underlying ideas of Barak and Sharon were the same, only Barak wanted to give Arafat “a carrot” to pacify him and Sharon planned to use “a stick” to scare him.

Neither was a success. Then we returned to that territory and decided to see for ourselves what was going on.

And we did find out quite a few things. We did find out that Arafat was indeed doing nothing to stop terrorism. And even more, he was supporting terrorism in certain cases.

But this terror was not Arafat’s terror. Most of the attacks were organized by Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and not by organizations controlled by Arafat. They were not fighting “for Palestine”, they were fighting “for Islam in Palestine” and they had far more ambitious long-term plans.

They were organizations which did not want just to build a Palestinian state, and even not just to build it instead of Israel – they wanted to build a Great Islamic Empire. Consequently, they were not committing terrorist attacks because Arafat instructed them, but because they believed that if they committed more attacks they would stop Arafat from reaching any agreement with Israel. They believed that was exactly what Arafat wanted.

So Mr. Kurginyan is absolutely right saying that the key issue is to define your true enemy. For a very long time we were convinced that the main terrorist enemies were organizations controlled by Arafat. And now they turn out to be quite different people and groups. So, a different objective appears: to neutralize the members of these other groups – either to arrest or liquidate them.

Actually, there were three organizations of such kind: Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and Arafat’s radicals (various Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades of the Tanzim). It was them who sent suicide bombers.

Neutralizing suicide bombers… What is the point? It is not a problem to recruit a volunteer. In any case, they are people ready to kill themselves for the sake of killing some of us. So there is no point in killing suicide bombers. Their leaders will always be able to recruit others.

Therefore we looked for the persons involved in organizing terrorist attacks. It never happens that one morning an Islamic extremist wakes up and says to himself: “Why don’t I explode myself in a bus today!” No, there is a system, a factory behind it! Such a suicide bomber is to be trained, the explosive belt is to be produced, the belt and the bomber are to be cleared at all the check-points. In general, there should exist a serious organization aimed at reaching one single target:

At the end, the mission is a terrorist attack. Each of such attacks involves several hundred people starting from those giving orders. In the case of Hamas it was Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. He was liquidated and then there was Abdel Aziz Rantissi. He also was liquidated. And so on…

This is a system of “top-down” ‘impulse of terrorism’ – orders, instructions – until it finally reaches the shahid.

Naturally, we tried to arrest the poeple in teh critical points of the system. We could easily do it, in Judea and Samaria, because we controlled the area. From the point of view of the intelligence, we preferred arresting to liquidation, because the terrorists were sources of information. We could not arrest them in Gaza Strip, because we did not enter the territory. We had no other choice in this territory but to destroy them.

I will get back to the problem of liquidation. But first some words about the results… During the four years of Intifada we were able to get back to the pre-Intifada rate of terrorism.

Why did it take us the long four years for that? In our previous wars with Syria, Egypt, Lebanon two weeks, a month at maximum were enough. But this time it was different. We faced a different type of war you can see it yourselves in Chechnya. Hence, the problems are quite different.

There are four factors which differentiate a traditional war and a war against terror.

  • Low Intensity
  • Asymmetry
  • Urban Environment
  • Networked Threat
Fig. 9. The New Paradigm: War on Terror

First of all, we have a low intensity war, of course. It is very lengthy. That implies a lot of circumstances which regular armies are not used to and dislike very much.

If a war lasts two or three weeks, it’s not enough time for public opinion against this war to materialize. There is no trouble-making TV all the time. If a war lasts two or three weeks – it is just a battle: whatever will be, will be, and all means and forces are employed.

But if a war goes on for several years the whole world watches, sends TV teams. And what they show from any battlefield at any war is something the public doesn’t like! Consequently, you face problems you never had before.

The second factor is asymmetry. This is not a “country to country” war, when it is enough to defeat the armed forces. This time you have to deal with some amorphous formation which you still need to understand, to understand its inner structure, and, respectively – its weak points. It took us two years to do that. We had an absolute advantage in military equipment, but it takes time to find out who confronts us, time goes by, and you strike in vain. Your advantages turn into disadvantages.

Further, Such wars go on intensely built territories with a huge civilian population (non-combatants). Up till then we had been fighting in Sinai, on Golan Heights. It was clear that we did not have to take into account the threat of massive casualties among civilians – there were none. And here terrorists emerge from civilian communities, and hide among civilians. So when you try to shoot at someone you are to your best no civilians are hurt.

And this is not because of the international public opinion. In fact it does not hurt us. In principle, we go to the end without any reservation. But such wars have an impact on our military men! And when they drop a bomb from a plane and see that together with terrorist they also killed 5 children, it creates disastrous moral problems. In the long-term perspective we can suffer serious losses. That is why we need to develop the ultra-precision means of destruction and equipment (precision guided munitions – PGM), which could guarantee the liquidation of those we want to destroy without damaging those around them.

And finally, the last factor which makes this new type of wars absolutely different. As a rule, during a war we believe that the enemy has strict hierarchies: if a division commander is killed he is replaced by his deputy only and by no one else. So by neutralizing a rather thin commanding layer we could assure paralysis of the whole system.

But here we deal with small organizations, which operate on a network principle. So it is much more difficult to find any ‘critical points’ in them.

Now I would like to get back to the system of surgical liquidations.

  • Real time intelligence targeting
  • Precision guided munitions (PGMs)
  • Shortest loop of “sensor-to-shooter”
  • Minimizing collateral damage
  • Develop technological capabilities (by intelligence as well as by weapons) to track individuals
Fig. 10. Surgical Capabilities (Targeted Killing, Elimination, Focused Abortion, Personal Preemptive Strike)

As I have already mentioned, the number of casualties from our side went down drastically as soon as we entered Judea and Samaria. And we witnessed a significant decrease of planned terrorist attacks starting from early 2003. This was even before Arafat died, so it had nothing to do either with him or his policy. But what was the actual reason?

When we talk about pinpoint liquidation, what preconditions are required? First of all, you need good intelligence capable to locate a certain person. You need to know who is this person driving a car, the one entering a mosque, yet another one going out of a house – it is Sheikh Yassin himself and not someone just looking like him.

Then you need the kind of weapon that leaves nothing of Sheikh Yassin and his wheelchair, but does not hit anyone else, if possible. These are rather sophisticated technologies, and not many countries have them at their disposal. Fortunately enough, we happen to be one of such nations.

Now, look here.

Here you see monthly data starting from the beginning of Intifada till 4 years later: the line of diamonds show the number of people killed by terrorists monthly; the line of squares shows the number of pinpoint liquidations (our actions against the key figures). Without any maths you can witness a direct correlation here.

At first we used such liquidations as our response to terrorist attacks: they start – we respond, then they respond again. But starting from February 2003 the liquidation practice was not in any way linked with their attacks. We just have a list of the key figures – the list of organization leaders, of the so-called “field commanders”, etc. So we started neutralizing them according to our list: we arrested those we could and liquidated those we could not.

And in a short while, from mid-2003, the rate of terrorist attacks started decreasing – not only the rate of their successful attacks, but of the plotted attacks as well. After we first liquidated Sheikh Yassin and then his successor Rantissi, Hamas has not given up terrorism, of course. Quite the contrary – they have started planning a mega-attack, some kind of “Mother of All Terrorist Attacks” as they call it. But up to now, they haven’t accomplished anything over the past two years.

It’s not that Hamas suddenly rejected the idea of the caliphate and not that it suddenly joined the Zionist Organization. The fact is, that starting from mid-2003 Hamas just has had no chances for successful mass terror. Now let’s get back to our initial graph. (fig. 6).

You can see on this slide, when this happened, when the decline began. Here you can see total figures of those liquidated and those arrested. And you can see for yourselves that the dramatic decline of the number of planned terrorist attacks started when we were able to neutralize approximately one fourth of the activists from the list of militants from the three fighting organizations: Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Arafat’s radicals (Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades).

Thank you very much for your attention.

Posted on 21 September 2005 @ 11:42