War archives ‘are being sensationalized’ by press

Researcher: Protocols should not form the basis of superficial conclusions; journalist condemns Dayan's "mistaken evaluations."

Golda Meir (photo credit: AP)
Golda Meir
(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 warned.
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.
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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 Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that such conclusions were over simplistic.
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,” Kober added.
“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 on.”
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.
[Prime 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.
They planned on conquering the area east of the Canal and then launching negotiations.
They never really considered advancing deep into the Sinai, let alone advancing to the international border,” Kober said.
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.”