A Comparative Analysis of the Structures and Functions of Intelligence Community in Israel and India



Israel represents one of the most interesting cases in the field of Intelligence Studies for several reasons. Creation of Israel is artificial and a direct result of excellent strategic intelligence and foresight. Due to its precarious geo-strategic position and a self-induced threat environment, it has relied and continues to rely on swift intelligence for its survival. It is a nation that spends the highest proportion of its GNP toward intelligence and it is also one of the biggest consumers of intelligence.

India on the other hand has been a land base political entity for thousands of years and has a history of statehood under various empires and rulers. Most of its boundaries are natural and its strategic location is geographically and historically consolidated. Its resources are plentiful but its threats are more internal than external, at least as compared to Israel. In contemporary India, the external threat environment constitutes Pakistan and China whereas, the internal threat of communal dissension is omnipresent and it constantly looms over the heads of Indian policy makers.

Both Israel and India have to deal with the éproblem of Islamé and the Muslims, whose identity and ideology constitute a key threat to the prevalent values in those societies1. Israel is more comfortable with its hostile anti-Islamic posture than India, as the latter posits itself as a secular state in order to accommodate its extremely populous and restive minorities. Both the states and their intelligence services have roots in the British institutions, and the structure and functions of the British intelligence agencies are in many ways the prototype of their organizations. However, the intelligence services of both the states depart from their origin in many interesting ways, which are attributable to geography, culture, resource base and needs.

Part – I. Israel

I. Background: The origin of Israeli intelligence services lies in the underground organizations that were formed to assist Aliya (Jewish immigration to Palestine), during the period of British mandate. In 1884, the Choveve Zion (the lovers of Zion) met in the Prussian city of Pinsk to constitute ideas on the return of the Jews to Palestine. Theodor Herzlés The Jewish State came out in 1896 and in the same year he convened the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland to consider the idea of a Jewish national homeland2. In 1900, under the auspices of the fourth Zionist Congress, the Jewish National Fund was created whose task was to purchase land in Palestine3. Upon the defeat of the Ottoman Empire with the Arab help, the British promised independence to the Palestinians. On the other hand, the British in 1917 issued the Balfour Declaration and pledged for the establishment of a national home for Jewish people in the land of Palestine, which later in 1922, was granted to Britain as a émandateé by the League of Nations.

The Pre-1948 Waves of Jewish Immigration: The first Aliya took place from 1882-1904 and the second one from 1904-1914, both of which derived support from the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Colonial Trust and the Jewish National Fund4. During the British mandate, the Zionist underground resistance force, Haganah, had as its information arm, an organization known as Sherut Yedioth. The Sherut later came to be known as SHAI which began its worldwide operations in 1929 until an independent Israel was created in 1948 5. Its task was to collect political intelligence for the sake of Zionist propaganda and to infiltrate the anti-Zionist and extremist groups in Palestine as well as the neighbouring Arab countries6.

Two routes of immigration were open to the Jews to emigrate from Europe, one legal and the other illegal. The legal immigration was allowed by the British but the numbers were small. Between 1939-1944, Britain allowed 75,000 Jews to enter Palestine legally and after that, if it allowed more Jews to immigrate, it would do so only with the Arab consent. The Jewish agency that came into being due to the need for illegal immigration of Jews to Palestine was the Mossad le Aliyah Bet7. This institution at that point incorporated ten people who worked in six countries: Switzerland, Austria, France, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. And it was the duty of these agents to make false passports, arrange escape routes and charter ships to take illegal immigrants to Palestine without being detected by the British authorities8.

Another pre-independence agency that formed the executing arm of the Haganah was Palmach which was military in character, whereas another organization Rekhesh was involved in covert operations and arms smuggling for the underground Jewish forces that had infiltrated the Arab townships9.

The post-1948 agencies: After becoming an independent state the SHAI was disbanded in favour of IDF (Israeli Defence Forces). Its political department was responsible to collect intelligence worldwide. Sherut Bitachon Klali was formed as a general security service for the sake of internal security and counter-espionage, also known as SHABAK or Shin Beth in Hebrew10.

In 1951, Ben-Gurion initiated the Central Institute for Intelligence and Special Duties (Mossad Letafkidim Meouychadim) commonly known as Mossad. Its initial function was to assess operation feasibility of military intelligence and nomination of targets, but after the creation of Military intelligence Agaf Modiin (AMAN) in 1953, it became independent of the Military Intelligence. In 1960, when Shimon Peres was in the ministry of defence, LEKEM (the Bureau of Scientific Relations) was instituted to collect scientific and technical intelligence for technological development, specially in relation to the weapon systems11.

The Structure of Israeli Intelligence:

II. The Overall Structure of Israeli Intelligence Services:

With the exception of Mossad and Shin Beth, the overall structure of Israeli intelligence services can be understood as a confederation12. The Israeli case displays a confederation structure at a tertiary level. In the sense that the MI is accountable to the director of military intelligence, who reports to the chief of staff, who in turn is responsible to the Minister of Defence. This bureaucratic chain of command is peculiar in a Confederation-type intelligence organization as in the case of UK. Similarly the Research and Political Handling Center through its own director is accountable to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs whereas the Special Division links up to the IG of National Police through the investigation department. And the IG, through the Ministry of Interior reports to the Prime Minister.

It is interesting to note that the Advisers on Intelligence and Anti-terrorism on one hand and the Advisers on Political and Military Matters on the other hand are directly linked with the Prime Minister, with each other and also with the Director General of Foreign Ministry and the Director of MI (See below, Figure 1):