(photo credit: AP)
The newly released protocols of emergency discussions held by former defense
minister Moshe Dayan, ex-premier Golda Meir and other members of the inner
cabinet during the Yom Kippur war are being sensationalized by sections of the
media and should not form the basis of superficial conclusions, a senior
researcher on Israeli national security and past Israeli-Arab conflicts has
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On Tuesday, journalist Eitan Haber, responding to the newly
released protocols, condemned Moshe Dayan’s “mistaken evaluations” on the front
page of Yediot Aharonot, and went as far as calling the late Dayan “a true
smartut [submissive person],” on Army Radio.
But Dr. Avi Kober, a senior
lecturer at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University,
and an expert on Israeli national security thought and doctrine, told The
on Tuesday that such conclusions were over
Asked about Dayan’s comments on October 7, as they appear in
the protocols, that wounded IDF soldiers on the Suez Canal line on the southern
front with Egypt should be abandoned, Kober said, “It’s very hard to judge the
decision to leave prisoners under those circumstances. There weren’t exactly
many options. From the start, the Canal line lacked defensive value. Years
before the Egyptian attack, the line was thinned out by former OC Southern
Command Ariel Sharon, and was difficult to defend because of how it was set up,”
“The forces in the fortifications along the line could not
effectively defend themselves, and to inject new forces to save those soldiers
would have resulted in great difficulties and might have resulted in more
casualties, so there wasn’t really much to do,” Kober said. On the other hand,
one cannot deny that [abandoning wounded soldiers] harms army morale, so this
was a very complex situation, and none of us knows for sure what he would have
done in Dayan’s place,” he stressed.
Dayan’s recommendation on October 7
that southern forces regroup east of the Canal, at the Gidi and Mitle passes,
and defend their position from there until the reserves arrive in the front was
“the most correct idea at the time,” Kober argued. “We see Dayan collapsing on
the one hand, but sometimes providing good advice on the other hand,” Kober
said. “It’s true that Dayan was heavily depressed, and collapsed
psychologically, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t understand what was going
At the same time, Kober added, Dayan clearly took a number of wrong
decisions, especially before the outbreak of the war, such as failing to call up
reserves. As for the option of launching a preemptive strike, “Dayan became very
scared that the US would not help if Israel attacked first.
minister] Meir adopted his stance... but the Americans were surprised by
Israel’s decision not to attack,” he said.
Also, Kober said, before the
war, the political elite was still hoping that conflict could be avoided, and
given the limited expected effect of a preemptive strike, it believed that such
an option was much less promising than in 1967.
According to the
protocols, Dayan was sure that the Egyptian and Syrian armies were aiming for
the complete invasion of Israel, an assumption considered false by historians
today. The fact is that “Dayan overestimated the Egyptians.
on conquering the area east of the Canal and then launching
They never really considered advancing deep into the Sinai,
let alone advancing to the international border,” Kober
Irrespective of Dayan’s fears, Kober added, “Israel was never in
real existential threat during the war, although individuals in the political
and military elite believed so. Dayan, in particular, was scared that the route
to Tel Aviv [from the South] was open, and he infected the inner cabinet with
this fear,” Kober said.
As a result of that fear, “on October 9, a day
after the Israeli October 8 counteroffensive had succeeded in holding off Syrian
forces but had failed on the Egyptian front, Israel sent [according to foreign
sources] nuclear signals in order to deter the enemy.”