Asaf Romirowsky: The Ghost Of Yom Kippur, Israel's Pearl Harbor

Roundup: Talking About History

Asaf Romirowsky PhD is a Philadelphia-based Middle East analyst, an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Forum and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. 

When one looks at Israeli history, the two wars that changed and defined the country the most were the Six Day War of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The Six Day War put Israel on the map as a true military force in the Middle East, and gave it the respect it needed in the eyes of the Arab world and in the eyes of the U.S. The Yom Kippur War in 1973 was a different story altogether; it was Israel’s Pearl Harbor. Israel would eventually overcome the Syrian and Egyptians forces on the battlefield, but it was a frightfully close affair, and ultimately cost the lives of 2,688 soldiers.
In retrospect, the events that came prior to attack on one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar could have been avoided and Israel should have been far more prepared. Every year since 1973 reminds Israel of that fatal period.
In the aftermath of 1973, and for years to come, Israel’s Chief of Staff at the time – David Elazar (‘Dado’)- was painted as the one responsible for the war. The Agranat Commission which investigated the events that led to the war’s outbreak recommended Elazar’s dismissal, and absolved both the Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan and Prime Minister Golda Meir of responsibility. But reporter Abraham Rabinovich in his book The Yom Kippur War dispels the myth the Elazar was at fault. Dado wanted to call up reserves in preparation for a full-scale military attack on the eve of the war. It was the head of AMAN (Israeli military Intelligence) Eli Zeira who minimized the significance of military maneuvers across the Southern and Northern borders, and managed to belittle the threat by arguing that it was nothing more than Egyptian and Syrian annual military drills. Zeira avowed that there was ‘low probability’ for a war on both Northern and Southern fronts. Prime Minister Golda Meir, not being a specialist, relied on her military advisors, especially Dayan and accepted Zeira’s prognosis.
Of late, recently declassified documents by the IDF archives validate many of these failures, including the breakdown in communication regarding the passing of the warning by Mossad handler Ashraf Marwan – the son-in-law of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser – who allegedly spied on behalf of Israel...

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