Israeli Defense Expert Meets with Pardee Students

Col. Miri Eisin speaking with students from Professor Woodward’s National Security Law course.

Miri Eisin, a retired Colonel in the Israeli Defense Force, visited the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University on February 27-28, 2017 to speak in several  classes including two graduate courses, “The Evolution of Strategic Intelligence” and “National and Homeland Security Law,” taught by Professor of the Practice of International Relations John D. Woodward, Jr.; “Religion and American Foreign Policy,” an undergraduate class taught by Lecturer in International Relations James Wallace; and “Public Diplomacy,”  taught by Senior Lecturer Ambassador Paul Hare.

Eisin spent over 20 years as a military intelligence officer in the Israeli Defense Force where she experienced all levels of intelligence work from tactical intel supporting combat operations to strategic intel with geopolitical implications.  She also served as an advisor to senior Israeli policymakers.

In her presentations in Woodward’s classes, Eisin discussed what makes the Israeli Intelligence Community (IC) different from others around the world.  She said that the military draft in Israel, which is mandatory for both men and women, allows the IC to populate its ranks with the best and the brightest.  The IC is also highly selective in whom they take and for the draftees, and is considered a prestigious assignment.  For instance, Eisin discussed Unit 8200, Israel’s equivalent of the National Security Agency (NSA), which is overwhelmingly staffed by individuals 18-21 years old who are highly adept in hacking, mathematics, computer coding, or other necessary skills.

As a small state less than a few hours drive from its bordering nation-states, intelligence plays an extremely important role for Israel’s security.  Accurate and timely intelligence is crucial for Israel’s survival, and Col. Eisin emphasized that it is the responsibility of the IC to give Israeli policymakers ample advance notice before an expected attack to give time for Israel to mobilize its forces, the vast bulk of which are in reserve units.

Eisin stressed the importance of intelligence sharing within Israel’s IC and cooperation among the agencies. Israel holds Joint Intelligence Courses where staff from all the IC train together.  These courses were started following the intelligence failure of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.   Eisin stated that the Israeli IC is fairly open to information sharing. She also discussed the establishment of the Israeli Home Front Command following the Persian Gulf War of 1991 and its roles in education and emergency response.

In Wallace’s class, Eisin spoke about the Middle East Peace process and the six unresolved disputes hindering agreement on a permanent peace settlement: boundaries, sovereignty, security, settlements, refugees/right of return, and Jerusalem. Eisin spoke of her experience from 2006 to 2007 when she served as a special advisor to the Israeli Prime Minister for the Annapolis Peace Conference.

Further, Eisin explained to students the four nation-state options for a possible peace settlement, and stated that although there has been some talk about moving to a one-state solution, the weight of Israeli opinion, in her view, still prefers a fair, equitable, safe and secure two-state solution.

In answering questions from the “Religion and American Foreign Policy” students, Eisin explained the complexities of the Israeli parliamentary system and its thirteen political parties. In spite of the controversies currently swirling around Prime Minister Netanyahu, because of the strength of his political coalition, it seems that the leadership of the Likud Party will remain in place in the near term.

In Amb. Hare’s “Public Diplomacy” classes, Eisin spoke on the challenges Israel faces in public diplomacy.  She described how the image of Israel had changed in perception from that of David (up to 1967) to Goliath. Most Israelis also could not understand how Europeans and U.S. publics were not interested in hearing about Israel’s emergence after WWII. Equally these publics seem less interested about the impact of The Holocaust but this was still a key feature of Israeli identity.

Now Israel had to overcome the image of soldiers oppressing Palestinians and appearing much stronger than its weak neighbor. Eisin said this would not be easy to change. Israelis were more concerned about being a nation than being a religious entity but countries based in the EU and beyond were wary of nationalism. However, Eisin noted that two successes of Israeli public diplomacy were the image of “The Start -Up” nation and how Tel Aviv was known as a tolerant place.

Her candid assessment was that a lot of mistakes had been made in public diplomacy and that the Jewish diaspora did not always help.

Eisin shared unique insights with BU students in well received presentations drawing in her extensive practical experiences.  Col. Eisin’s visit was sponsored by the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston and coordinated by CJP educational director Dr. Nancy Katz.