Golda Meir 'Didn't Understand the Arabs'

Eli Zeira says Golda Meir's 'nonsense' exacerbated failure, laments 'Israel still doesn't understand the Arabs.'

Uzi Baruch, Ari Yashar,

Golda Meir in Sinai during Yom Kippur War
Golda Meir in Sinai during Yom Kippur War
IDF Archives

As Israel approaches Yom Kippur starting this Friday, a full 41 years since the infamous Yom Kippur War that was underlined by some of Israel's most serious military oversights, then-IDF Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. (res.) Eli Zeira has shared some revealing new insights into the war.

In an interview with Yedioth Aharonoth Zeira spoke openly about his mistakes and the mistakes of others in not taking proper action leading up to the war - and asserted that the same fundamental issues still remain today.

"In IDF Intelligence we assumed that the Egyptians still could not do what they wanted to (to breach deep into Sinai), and that what they could do (to cross the Suez Canal and advance several kilometers) they didn't want to do," admitted Zeira.

The former army intel head acknowledged "that was our fixation. Regretfully, we had their plans. What we didn't know was that the plans could be false."

Zeira said that then-Prime Minister Golda Meir refused to believe declarations by Egyptian leaders, in which they called for the Suez Canal to be captured and to break through the Bar Lev line of Israeli fortifications along the eastern line of the canal - and he also admitted he did not try to correct her.

"I'm sitting in talks and hear Golda Meir's nonsense about the Arabs," said Zeira. "What do I need to tell them - you're saying nonsense? It's unacceptable and improper for an IDF Intelligence head to tell the prime minister 'you're wrong.' Not even in the most polite way."

The "nonsense" runs deeper according to the former intelligence chief, who declared that "today I know we don't even understand the Arabs."

"Before the (Yom Kippur) War the greatest expert on the Arab states, Prof. Bernard Lewis, came to Israel. He sat in my office and told me: 'I came from Egypt now. The situation is awful there. They can't set out for war,'" revealed Zeira.

Half-jokingly, Zeira said "if we want to understand the Arabs, we need to put (Arab nationalist MK) Ahmed Tibi into the investigative department."

The interview also shed light on how personal political considerations crept into the decision-making process.

"After the war I told myself: let's say you had said there was a 'high risk,' and they drafted reserve soldiers, and in the end war didn't break out. They would have established an inquiry committee and told me: 'Zeira, you idiot, it's true there were a hundred pieces of information about war, but there were thousands of pieces of information that there won't be war. So why did you stick to the hundred that said there would be?" said Zeira.




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