Over 93% of Egyptian officers did not know about Yom Kippur War two days in advance

The new revelations came Sunday from the commission's now declassified questioning of former IDF head of the southern command.

By
October 5, 2014 21:55
2 minute read.
Golda Meir

Golda Meir, the fourth Israeli prime minister.. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

On October 4, 1973, only two days before the Yom Kippur War, at least 93 percent of Egypt’s officers did not know that their country was about to stage a surprise attack on Israel, according to newly declassified protocols from the Agranat Commission.

The revelations came Sunday from the commission’s now declassified questioning of former head of the IDF’s Southern Command Maj.-Gen. (res.) Shmuel Gonen, which came out as part of a larger batch of protocols regarding six top IDF intelligence officials.

The Agranat Commission was the government inquiry commission that investigated the failures of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, generally focusing on who to blame for Israel being surprised and initially overrun by Egyptian and Syrian forces.

While numerous theories have arisen as to how the IDF could have been surprised as badly as it was, one has been that the surprise attack was kept under wraps even on the Egyptian side.

The fact that only 18 out of 281 Egyptian officers captured and interrogated by the IDF knew that Egypt was planning an attack as late as October 4, and only another seven knew as of October 5, with the rest being about as surprised as Israel, does provide support for this theory.

Still, many will say that as small a number as that is, it is not small enough to show that the surprise attack was such a secret on the Egyptian side that Israel’s intelligence could not have picked something up.

This remains especially true regarding the manner of maneuvers and armaments that Egyptian forces undertook on the Israeli border immediately preceding the war, according to IDF espionage unit head Lt.- Col. (res.) Yosef Zeira, nephew of Eliyahu Zeira, the much criticized former IDF intelligence head.

In the protocol itself, the information comes off almost as an aside in a back and forth exchange between Gonen and commission head, former Supreme Court president Shimon Agranat.

In the exchange, Gonen refers back to some prior testimony, saying he forgot to mention that just before the war, the IDF had “caught an [Egyptian] border patrol” in Israeli territory.

In responding to Agranat’s question about “what do you mean you caught a patrol,” and questions from other members about how the prisoners were handled and questioned (the prisoners did not know of the attack), Gonen volunteered the statistics to the panel.

Regardless of the above, the protocols show that at least four high-ranking intelligence officers urged greater war preparations, but were ignored by the top two intelligence officers and the IDF chief of staff, such that even the new information is unlikely to alter the primary narrative of an IDF failure.

Accordingly, the commission held IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. David Elazar broadly responsible for the army’s lack of preparedness and called for his removal.

The commission also called for the removal of IDF intelligence head Eliyahu Zeira, and his deputy, Arye Shalev.

The army’s initial failures and the report’s findings were so explosive that it also led to former prime minister Golda Meir’s resignation.

Former defense minister Moshe Dayan escaped official scrutiny, but his image was also permanently tarnished and he was excluded from the government of Yitzhak Rabin, which replaced Meir’s administration.


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