Fixing the blame for the July 1976 'Entebbe fiasco'

It never crossed anyone's mind to investigate why an order was given to attack without thorough planning.

By YOSEF (TOMMY) LAPID
May 16, 2007 21:52
2 minute read.

 
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Everything went as planned. Four Hercules planes landed in the Entebbe airport in distant Uganda. The planes' doors opened, the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal) crack commando unit stealthily approached the building in which the terrorists were holding over 100 Israeli and Jewish hostages, passengers of the Air France plane that they had hijacked. A moment before the Israeli soldiers burst into the building, the Ugandan guards spotted the Israelis, fired two shots and mortally wounded the commander of the rescue team, Yoni Netanyahu. The sound of the shots served to warn the six terrorists in the building that they were surrounded. They immediately opened fire on the hostages in the building, killing them all. The Sayeret Matkal commando unit burst into the building and killed the terrorists. The soldiers then loaded the bodies of the dead hostages and flew home. A national day of mourning was declared in Israel. A commission of inquiry was formed to investigate the terrible fiasco. It found that prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and his ministers, together with the IDF chief of staff and his officers had not taken into account the most obvious scenario, one that any child could envision - that the terrorists would murder all the hostages before the IDF could rescue them. The Rabin government resigned and the chief of staff went home. EXACTLY 30 years later, it emerged that the politicians and generals had learned the lesson of the failure of the previous generation. When Hizbullah abducted two Israeli soldiers on Israel's northern border, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, without hesitation and without wasting time on analysis, authorized the initiative of Chief of Staff Dan Halutz to carpet bomb the Hizbullah neighborhood in south Beirut. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah and his top commanders were killed in the first bombing attack. Hizbullah collapsed and the two abducted soldiers were returned home. No Israeli soldiers were harmed. It never crossed anyone's mind to investigate why an order was given to attack without thorough planning, without recruiting the reserves, without consulting former ministers. Olmert's and Peretz's popularity skyrocketed. LOGICALLY, IT is equally likely that these two episodes, or their opposites, could have occurred. From this, it follows that the investigative committee is in fact examining just one thing: Who had more luck? Historical events should be investigated by historians, with a historical perspective, rather than by an investigative committee working in an atmosphere of unbridled incitement, under threats of all manner of terrible punishments from columnists, unless they hand down an indictment against the prime minister and defense minister. What does all this remind us of? The writer is a former MK.

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