Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Features World Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Tour operators are calling attention to Jamaica’s little-known Jewish heritage by arranging visits to historic Jewish sites on the Caribbean island, including a cemetery where Jewish pirates are buried. A report in Travel and Leisure magazine describes the Hunts Bay Cemetery in Kingston, where there are seven tombstones engraved with Hebrew benedictions and skull and crossbones insignia. According to the report, centuries ago, Jewish pirates sailed the waters of Jamaica and settled in Port Royal. The town, once known as “the wickedest city in the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    JNS.org – Telling Israel’s story. It’s the specific title of a short film that Eyal Resh created last year. It’s also the theme behind the 27-year-old Israeli filmmaker’s broader body of work. The widely viewed “Telling Israel’s Story” film—directed by Resh for a gala event hosted by the Times of Israel online news outlet—seemingly begins as a promotional tourism video, but quickly evolves to offer a multilayered perspective. “I want to tell you a story about a special place for me,” a young woman whispers […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    JNS.org – The entrance to Jerusalem’s Sacher Park was transformed from April 25-27 by a fire-breathing robotic dragon, which flailed its arms and attempted to take flight. The robot, a signature feature at Jerusalem’s first-ever “Geek Picnic,” was one of more than 150 scientific amusements available for the public to experience. This particular dragon was designed by students from Moscow’s Art Industrial Institute in conjunction with the Flacon design factory, said Anatasia Shaminer, a student who helped facilitate the display. Children […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →