April 13, 2010:
Israel is seeking to increase the amount of battlefield intelligence, and speed with which it is acquired, by training all infantry troops to conduct battlefield interrogations in Arabic. While this sounds wildly ambitious, it isn't. About ten percent of Israeli Jews speak Arabic, and all Jewish students take three years of Arab language in school. How much they remember depends on where they live and how many Arabs they run into (a fifth of Israelis are Arab Moslems).
The new combat intelligence course provides a short list of phrases (and expected answers) that are considered most useful in gathering battlefield intel ("Are there any gunmen around here?" "Is anyone injured?" "Are there any mines or booby traps?" And so on.) The Israeli troops often get good intel from Arab civilians on the battlefield. The most likely foes, Hamas and Hezbollah, openly encourage the use of human shields, which makes a lot of civilians decidedly hostile to Hamas and Hezbollah. Along come some Israeli soldiers, offering some protection and first aid, so, hey, why not give the soldiers some information.
Currently, the infantry have to call in intelligence branch interrogators to deal with civilians. But it's been noted that some company commanders or platoon leaders have organized their own battlefield interrogation teams by identifying Arab speakers and informally preparing them to do battlefield interrogations. All this bubbled up the chain of command, until someone at the top agreed that it would be a good idea to institutionalize the practice. This includes teaching the troops what kind of information is essential to pass on up the line right away, and which they can just act on locally. The new training program is meant to both prepare all infantry to gather more useful intel while in combat, and to make the troops aware of what info must be sent to the intel units as soon as possible.