Two Tragic Anniversaries: The Yom Kippur War and the Oslo Accords

September 10, 2013 8:42 am 2 comments

Bill Clinton, Yitzhak Rabin and Yassir Arafat at the Oslo Signing Ceremony, September 13, 1993. Photo: Wikipedia.

Jews are supposed to search their souls between Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. But this year there should be some special soul searching inspired by two seminal events:

∙ The 20th anniversary of the September 1993 deal between Israel and the PLO.

∙ And the 40th anniversary of the 1973 “Yom Kippur War,” also known as the “Ramadan War” or simply as the October War.

Almost three thousand Israeli soldiers died in the 1973 war that Israelis called ha-mehdal—a Hebrew term that literally means “failure.” Mehdal also has the connotation of a catastrophic fiasco, and the 1973 war was seen as a catastrophic failure by Israel’s political and military commanders, who were guilty of the sin of complacency.

“We will break their bones,” commented Lt. Gen. David Elazar, the top army commander, several days into the 1973 war. A few months and thousands of deaths later, he was forced from office. He died a few months thereafter, a broken man.

Elazar was a tragic figure. He bore blame for the strategic surprise and unreadiness, but he bravely led Israel’s army to an amazing come-from-behind triumph that left Israeli forces in Africa, on the west bank of the Suez Canal, 60 miles from Cairo, and less than 20 miles downhill to Damascus.

But the war that began on Yom Kippur, the day of fasting and atonement, left no room for Israeli jubilation, only the licking of wounds and the crying over graves, often amid shouts against leaders who should have known better.

This was especially jarring for leaders such as Moshe Dayan, the one-eyed defense minister who was a darling of the media, and who had been cocky and supremely confident of his ability to control events. Dayan had resisted calls from some army officers to call up reserve units as a safety measure.

After the war, Israeli reporters began to reevaluate their role as journalists, and instead of chanting amen to the words and actions of glorified politicians and generals, Israeli journalists began a process of asking tough questions, even of themselves. Military correspondents stopped serving as enlisted cheerleaders for the army’s top brass.

Prime Minister Golda Meir relied on Dayan’s judgment and the promises of Henry Kissinger to ward off war. Kissinger told Meir that the U.S. would not aid Israel if it preemptively attacked the massing Syrian and Egyptian forces. This is one of many things for which Kissinger must atone.

Golda Meir held her post for a few more months, but she resigned after public protests grew stronger. It was only a matter of time before the Labor Party, which had dominated Israeli politics, would also be swept from power.

A commission of inquiry whitewashed political leaders, but the Israeli public did not forgive the ruling Labor Party, which lost its leading role in Israeli society.

Labor barely won narrow control of the prime ministry again only in 1992, and its leaders prepared the PLO-Israel deal that came to be known as “The Oslo Accords.”

Unlike the 1973 war, the September 1993 deal did not lead to 3,000 soldiers’ deaths in three weeks, but it led to more than 1,000 civilian deaths in the worst period of terrorism in Israel’s history. Those involved in the crafting of the Israel-PLO agreements—Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin—have lost all real power.

Peres, who holds the symbolic post of president of Israel, never won another election in the 20 years after Oslo, abandoning Labor to join Ariel Sharon’s Kadima Party after Peres lost an internal Labor party fight to Amir Peretz, a minor league unionist from the border town of Sderot.

Dr. Yossi Beilin, the real architect of the Oslo accords, was also pushed out of the Labor Party, and then failed to gain a leadership role in the even more left-wing Meretz Party. This reflects Israeli disappointment and even contempt for the peace-processors and their utopia-sounding promises of peace with the Palestinians.

Public opinion polls in Israel (New Wave, Dialog, Steinmetz Center of TA University, etc.) routinely show that more than 60 percent of Israelis do not believe there is a chance for peace with the Palestinians, while fewer than 30 percent believe in trying to find ways to talk to the PLO.

The policy-makers who made the catastrophic mistakes in 1973 and 1993 both suffered from errors in judgment and inflated egos: many of the leaders of 1973 felt they were too strong to be defeated by war, while the leaders of 1993 believed that Israel was so strong it could afford to take ridiculous risks.

The men of ’73 and ’93 believed in their own abilities to manage events more than in common sense and in pesky intelligence findings that spoke of Egypt and Syria training for war or Yasser Arafat planning terror.

Most leaders of ’73 paid a big price and some admitted some error, but the leaders of ’93, including Israel’s current president, still pretend they were right. Some of the 93-ers like Yossi Beilin are still treated as respected analysts and commentators, though no one would invite the IDF’s head intelligence in 1973 as a commentator.

As Maimonides once wrote, the path to penitence begins with admitting one’s mistakes, one’s sins. One cannot correct what one does not admit.

Dr. Michael Widlanski is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat, published by  Threshold/Simon and Schuster. He teaches at Bar Ilan University, was Strategic Affairs Advisor in Israel’s Ministry of Public Security, and is editing the Orient House Archives of the PLO. He will be the Schusterman Visiting Professor at University of California, Irvine in 2013-14.

2 Comments

  • I was in Israel during the 1973 war and I witnessed troops being pulled off the street in Jerusalem into buses the night before the war began this was no surprise. The soldiers told me that they were going up to The Golan Heights And couldn’t talk about it. This conversation took place 18 hours before the war began. Someone is hiding something because if I knew a war was about to begin why didn’t The Israeli government. There are rumors that there was conspiracy between Henry Kissinger and a traitor within the Israeli government for Israel to absorb the first attack on October 6, 1973 to give the Egyptians back thier pride so they would negotiate peace with Israel and force a compromise on the Israelis. This As described in the Israeli documentary who shot my father the story of Joe Alon. This was no surprise there appears to be a conspiracy of silence from higher authorities.

  • “For the soul of the flesh is in the blood, and I have therefore given it to you [to be placed] upon the altar, to atone for your souls. For it is the blood that atones for the soul.”

    Rashi writes: “one ‘soul’ [namely, the blood of a sacrifice] shall come and atone for another soul.”

    http://goo.gl/I4PZUE

    “Who would have believed our report? And to whom hath the arm of HaShem been revealed?”

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater 10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    Last month, my one-man show Hoaxocaust! Written and performed by Barry Levey with the generous assistance of the Institute for Political and International Studies, Tehran ran in the New York International Fringe Festival, where it won an Overall Excellence Award. The play has now been selected to run in the Fringe Encores Series at Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center, for four performances which started on Thursday, September 11. Getting the play to the stage was not easy, however. Here are [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Phenomenon: Tel Aviv-based musician and “sampler” extraordinaire, Kutiman (aka Ophir Kutiel) has hit another one out of the park with “Give It Up,” a fully-functioning song in its own right, assembled from hundreds of ameteur and instructional music videos. The Jerusalem-born musical prodigy is best know for his diverse online musical projects. In the latest video, uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 12th, Kutiel thanked most of the musicians and individuals he chose to include in the meticulously-edited clip, which opens with [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    A recently released behind-the-scenes reel of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Exodus: Gods and Kings shows just how far the director has gone to portray one of the Bible’s most famous narratives. In the clip, which shows scenes involving up to 4,000 extras, the visionary director discusses what drew him to the biblical tale of Moses. “The Moses story was a massive challenge, which I really love. I wanted to explore the complexity of his character and I was stunned by [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    JNS.org – Since 2006, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable and satellite TV network has hosted “The Projected Image,” a month-long showcase examining how different cultural and ethnic groups have been portrayed on the big screen. At last, after previously covering African Americans, Asians, the LGBT community, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, and people with disabilities, the annual series is delving into Jewish film this month. “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film,” whose first segment aired Sept. 2, runs [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    The sight of young girls in pinafores and young boys wearing peyos – sidelocks – dangling over their ears is a sure sign that you have entered the enigmatic precincts of the Hasidim – the pious ones. Veteran New York Times journalist Joseph Berger’s new book, THE PIOUS ONES: The World of Hasidim and their Battles with America, takes the reader on a journey into the enclaves where various sects of Jews live a seemingly outmoded way of life in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.