1st Edition

Israeli National Intelligence Culture Problem-Solving, Exceptionalism, and Pragmatism

By Itai Shapira Copyright 2025
    244 Pages
    by Routledge

    The book offers a novel conceptualization of Israeli national intelligence culture, describing the way in which Israelis perceive and practise intelligence.

    Different nations have different national intelligence cultures, relying on different ideas of intelligence, and perceiving and practising intelligence in different ways. Written by a former senior intelligence officer, this is the first study dedicated to Israeli intelligence culture and the way it reflects Israeli strategic culture. Relying on more than 30 elite interviews with acting and former Israeli practitioners, the book highlights the Israeli aversion to intelligence theory and scientific methods, as well as to the structured management of the intelligence system at the national level. It describes the intelligence service’s emphasis on contrarian thinking and moral courage as the foundations of intelligence professionalism, and the growing inclination of Israeli intelligence towards action and influence. Intelligence is perceived and practised by Israelis as a tool for problem-solving, addressing unique Israeli challenges. While some traits of the Israeli national intelligence culture have contributed to its high reputation and its ‘success story’, others might have also contributed to its failure in anticipating the Hamas terrorist attack on October 2023, or have remained aspirational norms rather than realized practice. The October 2023 failure, as did that of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, will undoubtfully influence Israeli national intelligence culture for many years to come.

    This book will be of much interest to students of intelligence studies, Israeli politics, strategic studies, and International Relations.

    Introduction  1. Frameworks  2. ‘Anatomy’ of Israeli Intelligence  3. Origins of Israeli National Intelligence Culture  4. Organization – Preference for a de Facto and Informal Intelligence Community  5. Intelligence Product – Action-Inclined, Integrated with Decision-Making  6. Process – Balancing Intuition and Interpretive Methods with Advanced Technologies  7. Aversion to Intelligence Theory, Innovation Conducted through Adaptation  8. Intelligence Professionalism – Moral Courage, Contrarian Thinking, Individual Responsibility  Conclusion  Epilogue: The Intelligence Failure of October 2023  Appendix A: List of Interviewees


    Itai Shapira has served for more than 25 years in the Israeli Defense Intelligence on the strategic, operational, and tactical levels, retiring as a colonel. He holds a BA in Economics and Philosophy and an MBA from Tel-Aviv University and is a graduate of the Israeli National Defence College. He earned his PhD from the University of Leicester, studying Israeli national intelligence culture. 

    'Itai Shapira’s study of Israeli intelligence culture is a major contribution to the field of Intelligence Studies, one that advances the subject in terms of conceptual approach and geographical focus. It is set to become an essential reference point for practitioners, academics, and students seeking to understand Israel’s intelligence environment.'.

    -  Mark PhythianUniversity of Leicester, UK

    'Itai Shapira’s groundbreaking analysis of the strategic culture of Israel’s intelligence community will be the go-to resource for scholars seeking to explain the intelligence failure of October 7th. Shapira’s exhaustive research provides stunning evidence of the impact of organizational culture in shaping intelligence and policy outcomes, and is a critical addition to the bookshelves of all national security professionals.'

    - Jeannie JohnsonUtah State University, USA