'There were great intelligence failures before the Six Day War'

Newly released documents release extent of intelligence failures before Six Day War. So how did Israel win?

Shimon Cohen ,

Yitzhak Rabin during Six Day War
Yitzhak Rabin during Six Day War
צילום: ארכיון צה"ל במשרד הביטחון

Fifty years after the Six Day War, military historian Aryeh Yitzhaki tells of fascinating documentation that came to him immediately after the war and the magnitude of the intelligence failure that preceded the war - which is considered the greatest success of the IDF - in his role as a former US intelligence agent.

"I came to the General Staff at random after serving in special units of the IDF, and in 1966 I was told that I had to serve as a staff officer for about a year, and I was sent to the General Staff and there I was summoned to meet the head of the department. Major General Arik Sharon and Major General Mussa Peled told me that I had been assigned to the post because of the special classification I have and my job would be to open the Chief of Staff's safe room," recalls Yitzhaki.

He says that "every Chief of Staff places his documents at the end of his duties" in the same safe he is appointed to open in order to investigate shortcomings and lessons learned from various IDF operations. "I discovered that there is no connection between official history and what happened on the ground.

"Afterward, the head of the history department, Col. Avraham Ayalon, appointed me to head a team that would analyze lessons from the war, even though I was the junior in the group. We wrote the report, which until recently was lying in the archives of the IDF archives, and only recently I received it."

As for the conclusions of that report, he states that the great flaw of the Six Day War was pre-war intelligence, or, more precisely, the lack of intelligence. "An ordinary person would think that the great intelligence failure is the surprise failure of Yom Kippur, but on Yom Kippur there was no intelligence failure. There were 412 alerts, and there was no impairment in the study. The default was that the information was not passed on to the leaders who would decide. On the other hand, the Six Day War was the father of fathers of failure to collect and research."

"In February 1967, the IDF General Command held a meeting with the head of Military Intelligence, who was then Araleh Yariv, and the head of Military Intelligence came up three months before the war and said, 'Be calm, there is no chance of war in the coming years. Until 1970-71 the Egyptians will not initiate a war because the Egyptian army had just completed its involvement in the war in northern Yemen and was busy building new divisions and absorbing new weapons from the Soviet Union. Until it is completed, there will be no war. ' I did not get it at the time, but in fact it is known that on May 14 Egyptian forces entered Sinai.

"The Egyptians who entered Sinai in the first stage surprised our intelligence completely, and our intelligence services wrote that this was a strange and incomprehensible deployment, and suddenly a special task force appeared without any knowledge of our intelligence. Our deployment was different from what we expected and thought. For example, the main Egyptian armored forces were not in northern Sinai, as we thought, but in central and southern Sinai. We discovered that they were building defenses and new forces appeared.

"In addition, they talked about forces that arrived like the forces from Kuwait and Iraq, and there was no basis for them, and suddenly there were divisions that were not known to Military Intelligence. There was news of the entry of three new reserve brigades into Sinai, 123, 125 and 126, and the IDF did not even know of their existence, but on the other hand, we received information about Armored Brigade No. 40 and it turned out that there was no such thing at all," recalled Yitzhaki.

"In order to understand the magnitude of the failure, the intelligence review states that there are 22 tanks in every Egyptian armored battalion, and it turns out that there are 31 tanks in each battalion, indicating the lack of tactical knowledge on this basic level," he said.

"These things were critical because when we were preparing for war, the IDF planned Operation Kardom. Major General Shaike Gavish planned the operation, which consisted mainly of three divisions in central and southern Sinai, and the restraining of the Egyptian force in the north by a small force, and it suddenly became clear that the plan could be thrown into the trash. Three brigades with new tanks entered from there, and so the plan was destroyed because of faulty intelligence.

"It was agreed to do the opposite, to pull out a new plan, Operation Nachshonim to replace Kardom, and the breakthrough would be in northern Sinai, where the Taliq Sharon and Avraham Yoffie divisions will operate, and the southern axis will have one Armored Division and will establish Divisions of Fraud. In the area of ​​Brigade 8, this is a division of fabrics and cartons, a division 49 whose commander is Colonel Shlomo Ambar. In its real battalions there was an engineering battalion that was prepared for such fraudulent activities with a lot of cardboard and paper equipment.

"To complete the ruse," Yitzhaki says, "Sharon's division traveled to Contilla and at night they returned to Abu Carta. Thus the Egyptians saw that there was an endless movement of tanks and half-tracks from the area of ​​Nitzana and the south, which shows that the IDF is concentrating its forces against its forces. Moreover, a fraud squad called 'Red Tongue' was established in the Eilat area to teach about an Israeli intention to break into the Sharm el-Sheikh area. We waited for two or three days and watched the Egyptians swallow the bait. We began to see the flow of Egyptian forces into the area of ​​the divisions of the diversion. Therefore, a situation was created that after a week of such maneuvers it was exceptionally successful, and in front of our serious force was a relatively small Egyptian force. This was the most brilliant deception operation the IDF has ever carried out.

"We seized Egyptian agents and told them that if they did not work with us and transmit false information, they would spend decades in prison. One of them was Rifat Ali al-Jamal, who appeared under the name of Jack Biton. On May 26, an Egyptian jeep 'accidentally' crossed the border in the Nitzana area and was caught by our forces, one of whom was one of ours and gave fascinating news," he said.

He added that there were also tragic incidents, such as an incident that took place "during the conquest of El Arish. A Nahal force was there and an Egyptian Zin appeared at the rank of lieutenant colonel and tried to turn himself in and a soldier shot and killed him."

In addition to this, Yitzhaki adds a very disturbing detail that emerges from the study of the documents in the same box of chiefs of staff - the individual dealing with the functioning of Moshe Dayan.

"After the Six Day War I continued serving in the General Staff for another year or so. I appeared before various IDF courses, such as POAM and others, and I told them about the various wars. In early 1969, I received a summons to the Defense Minister's office for clarification and hearing. They did not tell me on the phone what it was about. It would seem strange. I went to Dayan's office. The IDF chief referred me to a nearby room where my hearing would take place. The legal advisor of the defense establishment, Josef Ciechanover, and Lieutenant Colonel David Talmor were next to him. I asked what the hearing was about and Ciechanover told me, 'Young Mr. Yitzhaki, we have been informed that you are defaming the defense minister in your lectures.'"

Ciechanover confronted Yitzhaki and claimed that in a lecture he gave at Bahad 1 he claimed that Dayan had failed in Operation Danny and in a winery operation in the Beit Jala area. "He said that a week earlier I had said that the defense minister did everything he could to thwart the IDF during the Six Day War. He refused to approach the Suez Canal, tried to prevent the conquest of the Old City and tried to prevent the conquest of the Golan Heights. 'What do you have to say for your own defense? Because if you do not convince us, we will have to stop your work,' Ciechanover said. I told him that this was an IDF report backed by documents and tapes. He replied, 'If so, we will have to stop your work.' I said that I wanted to send a note to the minister in the next room."

In this note, Yitzhaki wrote a limited number of words intended to inform Dayan that information about him might be revealed. The details are three points from Dayan's past. "I added that all this came from the chiefs of staff's treasury and I had a conversation with Avraham Elzon, head of field security.

"The deputy JAG submitted the note to Dayan in the next room. I heard him arguing, and then he went out and said, 'Mr. Yitzhaki, you are asked to speak to the minister.' The men were removed. In this conversation, Dayan said to me, 'Why are you doing this?' I replied that I was acting without fear and bias and that I had said nothing wrong, but that if he fired me, I would go to the media. He said he saw that my contract was over in a year, so I would stay until the end of the contract and then I would be released and become a citizen. I agreed."

As for the contents of that note, Yitzhaki says: "Moshe Dayan, it can be said today clearly, was a foreign agent who was recruited by the US intelligence services in 1943 before the establishment of the state and the IDF. In Lebanon, which was in Vichy's hands, and it was inactive, after two years, the Americans and the British set up a plan in case the Nazis took over the area.Then Dayan established a wireless network that included five radio stations, including several Jewish radio operators who received Nazi communications. Before the truce, he was given a state funeral in the United States and the IDF representative at the funeral was Moshe Dayan and the contact was renewed in July of 1966. When Dayan completed his military service, he arrived in Vietnam as a guest of the American military system and stayed there for three weeks and took part in the fighting. This was a year before the Six Day War. In late May 1967 Dayan was appointed defense minister by Eshkol and directed the war, Jerusalem, etc. The connections continued after the war, for example, in December 1970 Dayan was the guest of President Nixon and Nixon's national security adviser, Henry Kissinger. A month before the Yom Kippur War, Kissinger was appointed secretary of state. This connection explains many puzzling moves in the Yom Kippur War and the Six Day War."

Yitzhaki stated that decisions were not made only by Dayan. "Throughout the years Dayan was accompanied by Eli Zeira, whom I define as a sub-agent." Zeira was the chief of staff of Dayan, who was closest to him in 1954-55. In 1958, Zeira passed a command and staff course in the American army. He was appointed head of Military Intelligence and was largely responsible for this intelligence failure. The Military Intelligence officers were not punished, neither Gazit nor Zeira nor Yariv, and they continued to advance, and then what happened in the Yom Kippur War happened, and in 1970, before the Yom Kippur War, Zeira was appointed IDF attache in the United States. "

Yitzhaki added that Joseph Ciechanover, who asked to be ousted, was appointed head of the Defense Ministry's relations with the United States. In 1978, he received the prestigious Civil Service Medal from the US Department of Defense.