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Dr Uri Bar-Yosef: 'Symptoms Of Israel's Intelligence Failure In Yom-Kippur War Still Remain'

'Aman, The IDF Intelligence Branch, Still Dominates Israel's National Security Assessment'

'If Gen. Ariel Sharon Had Been In Command Of Southern Front, Much Of Egyptian Army Would Probably Have Been Destroyed Crossing Suez Canal'

The Egyptians Attack

Thirty-two years have passed since Egypt and Syria armies caught Israel by surprise on Yom-Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. At around two o'clock in the afternoon, while Israelis were at prayer in synagogues across the country, massive Arab forces attacked across the Suez Canal and on the Golan Heights. Outnumbered by ten to one and more, the Egyptian and Syrian troops and tanks overran the sparse Israeli defenders and appeared to threaten the very existence of the Jewish state. Before the IDF recovered and drove back the invading armies, 2,586 Israeli soldiers were killed and thousands more wounded. It was a monumental intelligence failure and the trauma in Israel continues to this very day. What went wrong? Dr Uri Bar-Yosef, a strategic analyst at Haifa University and an IDF Colonel (res.) has conducted an exhaustive study in his book entitled 'The Watchman Fell Asleep' which has recently appeared in English.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

'The symptoms of Israel's intelligence failure in the Yom-Kippur War of 1973 still remain'. That's the conclusion of Dr Uri Bar Yosef in his book 'The Watchman Fell Asleep'. Bar Yosef warns it could happen again although he does not see Israel being surprised by a conventional Arab attack in the foreseeable future. Prior to the Arab offensive on October 6th, 1973, IDF intelligence had received a lot of information indicating that Egypt and Syria were planning to attack. However, IDF intelligence adhered to its conception that the Arabs would not dare go to war again until they had acquired greater air power and more effective ground-to-ground missiles.

IDF Crosses Suez Canal

Dr Bar-Yosef warns that Israel has not fully implemented the recommendations of the Agranat commission of enquiry into the intelligence failure. Aman, the IDF Intelligence Corps continues to dominate Israel's national security assessment, which should be based on political as well as military considerations. Moreover, the Yom-Kippur experience has influenced Aman to view new evolving situations as threats rather opportunities. Bar Yosef contends that this approach thwarted the IDF's withdrawal from south Lebanon for years at the cost of many IDF soldiers.

What if retired Gen. Ariel Sharon, who toppled the Egyptian army by eventually leading the IDF crossing across the Suez Canal, had still been in command at the outbreak of the war? Would it have made a difference to the initial Egyptian success in taking the IDF by total surprise? Sharon had been the former Southern Front commander before retiring from the IDF. Bar Yosef believes it would have been a different story if Sharon had still been in command. Sharon would have probably reacted to the massive Egyptian buildup by mobilizing all available IDF forces including 200 tanks, which were caught out of position to the rear. Those tanks could have destroyed much of the Egyptian forces crossing the Suez Canal.

David Essing

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