The new year of 2023 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, which began when the IDF was caught off guard by a coordinated, simultaneous attack by Syria and Egypt. Although the war lasted a mere twenty days and concluded with a resounding Israeli victory, its disastrous beginning led to the postwar Agranat Commission investigating how the country’s leaders ignored or dismissed various warnings of the impending invasion. Amir Oren, examining the commission’s findings, argues that its highest-ranking officer, Yigael Yadin, put too much emphasis on the failures of the Department of Military Intelligence (DMI or Aman), and not enough on those of then-Prime Minister Golda Meir and her storied defense minister Moshe Dayan:
The sins of the Agranat Commission became gradually evident as its bias and secrets were exposed and declassified. Yadin went easy on Golda Meir because he wanted to join her cabinet. Meir’s meeting with Jordan’s King Hussein one week before the war on September 25, when he warned her that the Syrian military was on “pre-jump positions,” came up in her closed-door testimony but was only revealed to the public fifteen years later—a decade after her death. Meir and Dayan were depicted as being wholly dependent on the DMI’s assessment; therefore, if the DMI was mistaken, they were not at fault.
In reality, Israel’s political leadership made the wrong call. On the eve of Yom Kippur 1973, Israel’s leaders thought that acting upon war indicators would be more costly than inaction, especially three weeks before an election, and believed that the worst-case scenario could not be that bad. Meir and Dayan were confident in the IDF’s ability to repel an invasion easily and go on a counter-offensive.
Yet despite the deficiencies of its assessments, Oren argues that the recommendations of the commission did much good:
The Agranat Commission’s reform of Israel’s intelligence community did . . . bring about one very positive result—fresh brainpower, recruited out of academia and the military to staff the new research and analysis organs. They went on to other positions as spies, diplomats, and managers across the Mossad and the Foreign Ministry, a big plus for their employers and the entire system.