The Cognitively Disabled Soldiers Who Handle an Elite IDF Unit’s Most Sensitive Materials

In the U.S., people have been excluded from military service for such minor physical defects as flat feet. Israel, by contrast, has long taken the attitude that every citizen has something to contribute to the people’s army. Most recently, a group of young men and women who suffer from such conditions as autism and deaf-mutism have been assigned to the prestigious and secretive 8200 Unit, responsible for cyberwarfare, where they help to destroy and dispose of computer hardware containing classified information. Lior Ohana speaks with some of the team’s members:

We follow Chief Warrant Officer David, [a pseudonym for the supervising officer], through the gates of the scrapping factory. Piles of shiny equipment pass by us behind huge signs labeled “Classified” and “Top Secret.”

“Nice to meet you, I’m Shai, thirty-three years old from Tel Aviv,” a volunteer on the autism spectrum, holding a large screwdriver, introduces himself. “I live with my mom and dad. I really love taking things apart, and that’s why I love being here, and I also love playing on the computer, which goes along with what I do here. Come, let me teach you. First, we need to remove all the screws from the computer drive and search for the hard disk that contains everything we’re not supposed to keep.”

“I’m from Ra’anana, and my dad is also a lieutenant colonel, and I wanted to follow him to the army and volunteer,” says A., twenty. “I enlisted in Unit 8200, and since then I’ve been dismantling, assisting with machines, but mainly sorting, doing what needs to be done. I contribute to the country. . . . That’s what I wanted to do the most. I enlisted, put on the uniform, received a beret, and I’m so happy to be like my dad.”

From the small but significant factory, David and his colleagues primarily want to convey an important message: “There is no shortage of work in all areas of the army,” explains David. “We need more manpower, not just for ourselves but for the entire army. These soldiers here teach us and assist us in an exceptional way.”

Read more at Ynet

More about: IDF, Israeli society

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security