“With disrupting tricks you shall make war”
Knowing the budget of an organization allows one to evaluate its capabilities. $1000 Per year? No chance that they are developing weapons of mass destruction. $1000 Billion per year? They are dangerous.
That is the reason for the secrecy surrounding the budget of Israel’s Secret Services. The two major ones are the Shin Beth** and the Mossad, the first acts as domestic political police, the second is parallel to British MI6 and USA’s CIA.
Yet, things change. On November 29, 2010, the Israeli Government decided to develop the Government Database as part of its Available Government Policy (“mimshal zamin” in Hebrew). The project is intended for public use and includes all non-classified activities of the government, including its budget. Alas, the Shin Beth and Mossad budgets were never an official part of the published budget.
Not Exactly a Secret
The combined secret services budget is huge, to the extent that it cannot be easily concealed. The State Budget is analyzed by the Knesset Committees and must be approved by its assembly. Over the years, the concealment methodology developed was leaked by the Hebrew press, but there were no formal documents acknowledging that the “General Reserve” budget was intended to these organizations.
As part of the abovementioned new policy, the Ministry of Finances published the letter shown below. Here is the translation of its body:
“Ref: Use of the General Reserve in the Year 2011 “The Minister of Finances asks for the approval of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee*** for the transfer of the sum of 5,752,148 thousands of new shekels and 1,500,000 new shekels under permit from clause 47, General Reserve, to clause 15, Ministry of Defense, according to clause 11 of the 1985 Budget Law. “The request is aimed at passing to the Security Budget the sum of 5,752,148 thousands of new shekels for expenses and 1,500,000 new shekels as a permit to take loans and 256,000 thousands of new shekels to enlarge the expenses conditioned on incomes. Detailed explanations would be given at the Subcommittee for Intelligence and Secret Services.”
Mossad, Can You Spare a Dime?
Burger King would be happy with such performance. Since 2006, the budget increased in roughly 50%, reaching almost 2 billion dollars in 2012. Former Prime Minister Olmert reduced their budget and attempted to sign a peace agreement with Palestine. The answer was harsh. He was entrapped, and later acquitted, but not before having been forced to resign. The Prime Minister before Olmert, Ariel Sharon, suffered an inexplicable accident while trying to sign an agreement with Palestine. Lucky coincidences! Netanyahu understood the hint. He promotes war and enlarges their budget constantly as the chart above shows.
Another important point is the staggering size of the budget. 2 Billion dollars as compared to the 15 billion yearly budget of the IDF. The IDF has over 100,000 soldiers in its regular forces and over 1,5 million in the reserve. It is impossible to find how many people are under the Security Services payroll,**** but we are talking about a few thousands. Secret services agents are quite expensive; there is little doubt they enjoy a nice life.
A related comparison that is difficult to perform accurately is with the situation in other countries. USA’s CIA doesn’t publish its budget. However, semi-official leaks place it at substantially below 50 billion. The USA polulation is roughly 40 times larger than the Israeli (ignoring West Bank and Gaza). If the USA was to spend the same population of its budget on its secret services, the CIA would have an 80 billion budget. Mossad and Shin Beth are rich and well-fed. Netanyahu will survive.
Amazingly, the letter above mentions “incomes.” Since when security services generate incomes? This is an indirect reference to the sad fact that Mossad is involved in questionable businesses all around the world. Diamonds and drugs are favorites.
The Cost of a Mossad Assassination
Neither Mossad nor Shin Beth focus in assassinations. They also spend considerable sums in harassment and sabotage. Yet, for the sake of an academic exercise I tried to answer this intriguing question.
In 2011, international media reported five assassinations by Israel, some of them included IDF forces, yet, for the sake of simplicity, I will ignore them. In any case, this is just a rough calculation. Mohammed A-Najar was assassinated in Gaza, on January 11. Tayseer Abu Snima was assassinated in Gaza, on April 9. Darioush Rezaeinejad was assassinated in Iran, on July 23. Finally, Abu Oud al-Nirab and Khaled Shaath were assassinated in Gaza, on August 18.
A point often overlooked are the overhead expenses. One cannot isolate the operation from the general cost of maintaining the organization. Thus assuming (and this is a mistaken assumption) that one knows about all the assassinations that took place that year, Israel’s Secret Services spent about $400 million per killing. Tamir Pardo, Yoram Cohen, isn’t it time for you to take some lessons from the Mafiosi? They are almost infinitely more efficient.
I am confident that you know how to contact them. Meanwhile, can you spare a dime?
* Mossad quite openly supports its definition as a “terror organization.” Mossad’s former motto was taken from Proverbs 24:6 “For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.” The new one is from Proverbs 11:14 “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” In the English translation of the Hebrew text, it is difficult to realize that only one word is repeated in both verses: “tahbulot” (the “h” is pronounced like the “ch” in “loch”). This means the people of that organization consider it the heart and soul of the motto and—consequently—of their organization. How is that soul? Most Hebrew words are constructed upon a root of three consonants. In the case of “tahbulot” the root is H.B.L. which roughly means “disrupt.”
The emphasis is on a bad disruption; not “Please sir, stop for ten minutes and have a coffee with me,” but the dropping of hot coffee on someone in order to force a break. “Tahbulot” may be translated as “disrupting tricks.” “With disrupting tricks you shall make war” is a good translation of the first motto while the new one begins with “without disrupting tricks the people shall fall…” Moreover, words derived from the same root are used for the Hebrew word for “terrorist,” namely “mehabel” (note the appearance of the same root H.B.L in the word). In other words, the Mossad defines itself as a terrorist organization specializing in disrupting tricks.
** General Security Service is “Sherut Bitahon Klali.” The proper Hebrew acronym is “shabak.” English acronyms work according to different rules; “Shin Beth” refers to the first two initials.
*** The most important committee in the Knesset. It includes the classified Subcommittee for Intelligence and Secret Services.
**** The main problem in the calculation is that both organizations keep an underground network of collaborators. The Shin Beth uses mashtapim (short form of “meshatfei pe’ula,” “collaborators in action”) within the Jewish and Palestinian populations in Israel and the West Bank. Mossad uses “sayanim” (helpers) from the Jewish communities outside Israel.