Sharon with Bar-Lev
Photo: GPO
David Elazar
Photo: GPO

Agranat files hint at consistent military problems

Senior officials' testimony to commission investigating Yom Kippur War highlights issues much like those seen in Israel's most recent war

Previously secret files from Agranat Commission were opened to the public Tuesday, almost 35 years after the commission was established to investigate the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War and examine the conduct of the military and political echelons.


The Israel Defense Force archives released 20 witness testimonies, among them that of former prime minister Ariel Sharon and former defense minister Moshe Dayan, both highlighting issues that came up in Israel's most recent war.


When asked about his division's movements on October 7 and 8, 1973, Sharon - who was then the commander of Reserves Armored Division 143 - criticized the IDF's general staff, with whom he had been fighting at the time.


Sharon with General Bar-Lev in 1973 (David Robinger) 


"I wanted to emphasize that… something that was evident throughout the war and that caused grave damage in managing the war was the absence of senior officers from the field," Sharon said in his testimony.


"For example, look at the 8th, when there were two divisions in the field… The regional commander should have been there or, if not, then his deputy… someone to coordinate between the forces… Many mistakes were made because this didn't happen," he said.


Furthermore, Sharon claimed that senior officials were not interested in hearing feedback from their subordinates in the field. Tactically, he said, this lack of communication impacted the war effort.


"There were several occasions when not only were other people giving orders to your subordinates, but they were often doing so without your knowledge," Sharon elaborated.


Describing the widespread confusion, Sharon said he'd gotten the impression that "there was no clear picture of what was going on in the field."


Dayan relies on deterrence power

Then defense minister Moshe Dayan's testimony is similarly evocative of the criticism of Israel's latest conflict with Hizbullah: In his testimony, Dayan explained that his decision not to call up reserves soldiers on the eve of the war was based on an intelligence report from 5 months prior to its outbreak.


"We were fairly certain of our capabilities to hold off a first strike… We understood that the only difference would be a slight discrepancy in artillery power on the (southern) front. We felt that our capabilities, along with the airforce, would be enough to hold them off," he said.


On the eve of the war, Dayan explained in his testimony, the IDF Chief of General Staff sent up airplanes in order to try and deter the Syrians and the Egyptians. "We could not be sure that full scale war would erupt based on what we saw," he said, explaining his reluctance to call up reserve ground forces.


Elazar highlights Dayan's hesitation

Meanwhile, David Elazar, who was the IDF Chief of Staff at the time, recalled with censure how Dayan had refused his requests for a massive reserves call-up, agreeing only to draft airforce reservists and two armored divisions (one to the north and one to the south). Specifically, he said that Dayan refused to call up reservists to the Jordanian front.


Elazar also said that Dayan immediately took the idea of a preemptive strike off the table: "He said we couldn't allow such a thing this time," Elazar recounted in his testimony.


But he noted that the problems went beyond Dayan's hesitation. For example, referencing Dayan's idea of heading off an enemy strike, he stated that the two standing divisions in the north and south had been instructed to deploy in order to prevent enemy infiltration to Israel but, operatively, did not deploy as planned.


Yaron Druckman and Roei Mandel contributed to this report 


פרסום ראשון: 10.07.08, 11:33
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