Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave a rare public salute at Sunday’s cabinet meeting to Lt.-Gen. David “Dado” Elazar, the oft-maligned former chief of staff, who died 38 years ago this week.
“I know many people in Israel who served under him, respected him and feel the need to do justice to the memory of one of Israel’s most dedicated and brave commanders,” Netanyahu said of Elazar, who was the chief of staff during the Yom Kippur War.
The Agranat Commission, established after the war to investigate the army’s lack of preparedness for the war, found Elazar personally responsible for the IDF’s mistaken assessment of the situation and its poor preparedness.
The committee called for his removal from office.
Elazar immediately resigned, and claimed the committee was using him as a scapegoat, since it did not recommend any action against any of the leaders in the political echelon.
“Dado,” Netanyahu said, “dedicated his entire life to Israel’s security,” starting with membership in the Palmah’s Harel Brigade, through his stint during the Six Day War as OC Northern Command, and leading all the way to becoming chief of staff.
And even the Yom Kippur War, Netanyahu pointed out to Elazar’s credit, “ultimately ended with the army’s victory.”
Netanyahu pointed out that Elazar – in his role as head of IDF operations and then as chief of staff – “took an active leadership role in the war against terrorist organizations.”
Elazar became chief of general staff in January 1972, and some of highest-profile terrorist attacks and counter-terrorist operations took place with him at the helm, including the Lod Airport Massacre in May 1972, the Munich Massacre in September 1972, Operation Spring of Youth in April 1973, when IDF commandos killed several high-level PLO officials in Beirut, and the freeing of the hijacked Sabena aircraft in May 1972, an operation in which Netanyahu took part, disguised as a flight mechanic.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon praised Netanyahu for acknowledging Elazar’s contributions, telling Israel Radio that even though there were legitimate complaints against the IDF’s performance during the war, and there were failures that could be dropped at Elazar’s doorstep, the political echelon at the time also bore responsibility for the lack of preparedness and improper assessments.