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 Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    JNS.org – There is one sentence in “Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel” that made me sit up in surprise. I thought that I knew the basic facts about how Israel came into being, but while describing what it was like in the days and hours before the state was declared, author Anita Shapira provides one important anecdote I was not aware of. On the 12th of May, the Zionist Executive met to decide what to do. Moshe Sharrett had just returned [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    An actress starring in the controversial Met Opera The Death of Klinghoffer defended the show on Tuesday by comparing it to the 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, New York Post reported. “To me, this was like [the movie] Schindler’s List. We make art so people won’t forget,’’ said the actress, who plays a captured passenger in the show and asked not to be identified. The Met Opera focuses on the infamous murder of Lower East Side Jewish resident Leon Klinghoffer, 69. The wheelchair-bound father of [...]

    Read more →
  • Analysis Arts and Culture Beyond ‘Klinghoffer’: Opera’s Composer, Librettist Have Broader Jewish Problem

    Beyond ‘Klinghoffer’: Opera’s Composer, Librettist Have Broader Jewish Problem

    JNS.org – One of the most controversial operas in recent memory, “The Death of Klinghoffer,” debuted Oct. 20 at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. The Met has scheduled seven more performances through November. The first staging did not occur without protest, as about 400 demonstrators—including Jewish communal and nationally recognized leaders—came to Lincoln Center to denounce the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel opera. “Klinghoffer,” the creation of composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman, premiered in 1991—with few additional stagings. The opera is based [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot is in negotiations to take on the female lead role in the remake of the 1959 classic Ben-Hur, according to The Hollywood Reporter. If the deal is finalized Gadot will play Esther, a slave and Ben-Hur’s love interest. Actor Jack Huston will star as the Jewish prince who is betrayed into slavery by his childhood friend Messala, played by Toby Kebbell. Ben-Hur fights for his freedom and vengeance with the help of Morgan Freeman’s character, who trains Ben-Hur how to win at chariot-racing. [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    JNS.org – Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie are the American dream. So why do two young men who have built their lives in Israel have a GoFundMe crowd-funding webpage with the urgent message that they need $3,000 to travel to the U.S. to watch the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles square off for Major League Baseball’s (MLB) American League championship? Brothers Naftali and Yoni Schwartz, 27 and 25, respectively, are Kansas City natives. Even though they made aliyah with their [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Some 3,000 years ago, King David probably never imagined cars racing at 240 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour) through the ancient capital of the Jewish people. But on Monday and Tuesday, October 6-7, thousands of Israelis lined the streets to watch Porsche, Audi, and Ferrari race cars fly through the capital against the backdrop of the Tower of David, the Old City Walls, and other city landmarks. The second annual non-competitive Jerusalem Formula One Road Show had been [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James expressed interest in visiting Israel someday, local news site Cleveland.com reported on Sunday. Speaking to Israeli reporters before the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason debut against Maccabi Tel Aviv, the NBA star said he had never visited the Jewish state but “I want to look forward to going there if I get an opportunity to.” When asked by an Israeli reporter if there was “any chance that LeBron James and Cleveland comes to Tel Aviv,” the athlete said [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    A Florida-based Chabad rabbi put former basketball star, U.S. Congressman Curt Clawson to shame on the court when the two faced off one-on-one recently. A YouTube video, posted online on Tuesday, shows Rabbi Fishel Zaklos of Chabad of Naples shooting hoops with the Florida politician, who played basketball in high school and at Purdue University in Indiana. The game took place in the parking lot of the Chabad Jewish center run by Zaklos. During the 1-minute clip, Zaklos scores two impressive [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.