Charlie Mulgrew’s penalty after 25 minutes gave the visitors an undeserved interval advantage in Haifa and there was no surprise when the hosts, 94th in FIFA’s rankings, levelled in the 51st minute, midfielder Dor Peretz making up for conceding the penalty with a barge on Steven Naismith with a close-range finish.
Scotland’s situation deteriorated in the 61st minute when defender John Souttar was sent off for picking up the second of two yellow cards before defender Kieran Tierney turned a cross from Beram Kayal past Allan McGregor with 15 minutes remaining.
It was Israel’s second win in 11 games – the first under boss Andreas Herzog – but a defiant McLeish said: “Did we ever say we were at a level where we should be qualifying for major tournaments? We’ve not said that.
“We know we’re trying to build to being a team that can win and get points consistently and we’re still not quite at that level.
“We’re trying to build towards it. None of us, the coaches watching the games, thought that they were a right bad team.
“They have some good players there. (Manus) Dabbur is clever, a couple of fouls from John Souttar and he fooled the referee in both challenges, he got a soft booking, the first one, and then the sending off.
“That’s an experienced players in European football. Don’t think they’re mugs and we should be wiping the floor with them.”
Scotland skipper Andy Robertson understood the frustrations of the Tartan Army who booed their side off at the end.
He told the Scottish Football Association’s official Twitter account: “We weren’t good enough, that’s why they created chances.
“Without being disrespectful we made them look a better team than they were because if we can play a lot better – like we did in the first 15-20 minutes – they don’t get as many chances.
“Going down to 10 men, it was backs against the walls and we couldn’t really get out.
“It was just one of those nights when so many things went wrong.
“The fans booed us off the park which is understandable because of our performance.
“I get that and we can apologise to them but I am sure it won’t mean much to them.”