Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan and the Yom Kippur War
Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan and the Yom Kippur War
The Israeli Hubris
The Six Day War (1967) ended with a swift victory of Israel over three Arab states (Egypt, Syria, Jordan), the result of which was “taking hold” (I refrain from saying “occupation”, since it is under political dispute) of Sinai peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the West Bank of the Jordan Kingdom.
After this swift victory the Israeli hubris skyrocketed to inconceivable heights, and the Israelis were led by their government to believe that the Arabs would never attack Israel, because it was “not worthwhile” for them to do so.
However, the “idiots” who led the Arab states (Egypt & Syria) didn’t know that it was “not worthwhile” for them to do so, and on Yom Kippur, 1973, they launched a coordinated attack on Israel. The result was about 3,000 Israeli soldiers killed (about 300,000 U.S. troops, relatively, in today’s terms). In the Jewish faith, Yom Kippur (“Day of Atonement”) is the holiest day in the year, a day in which even secular Jews don’t work.
Levi Eshkol’s Successor
Four years earlier, when Prime Minister Levi Eshkol (who had led Israel to the six-day victory) was very ill, the polls gave Golda Meir only 0.4% support as the next Prime Minister. When Eshkol died, in 1969, she was preferred by the Israeli Labour Party to succeed him, as a “compromise candidate”.
The polls, what a surprise, gave her 61% after this appointment. I guess that Caligula’s horse would have gotten the same polls, before and after his appointment as Consul-General.
The Six Day War
Back to the Six Day War, prior to which Eshkol was both Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.
In the tense “waiting” days prior to the war, the Israelis, impatient and anxious to start the war, lost their confidence in Prime Minister Levi Eshkol (at least partially due to his “stuttering” radio speech), and under the public pressure Eshkol appointed the charismatic Moshe Dayan as Defense Minister in his stead. Six years later the Israelis would pay the bill, and ten years later the Israeli Labour Party would pay as well.
The most important role Dayan played in this war was harvesting the glory.
After Eshkol’s death in 1969, when Golda Meir became Israel’s Prime Minister, Dayan remained Defense Minister, and together they led the above-mentioned “conceptsia” (as we say in Israel) that the Arabs would never attack Israel, because it is “not worthwhile” for them to do so.
Two months after the war, the elections to the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) took place, and guess what… Golda Meir and her party won again! Just imagine 300,000 American troops killed in Afghanistan in less than three weeks, two months before the presidential elections, and the incumbent president doesn’t fall…
… The Fall
However, Golda Meir didn’t hold her chair much longer. On Apr. 1st, 1974, the Agranat Inquiry Commission, appointed to investigate some (too few!) aspects of the war, issued an interim report finding the military echelons (Chief of General Staff, Chief of Military Intelligence and others) personally responsible for the failures of the war (especially the lack of preparedness thereto), and cleared the political echelons (Meir, Dayan and the whole Government) of any personal liability for anything.
The Israeli public didn’t accept those conclusions clearing the political echelons, and following a high wave of demonstrations Golda Meir had no choice but to resign, an act which, by Israeli law, means the resignation of the whole government.
and Rise …
The next Prime Minister of Israel was Itshak Rabin, formerly the military Chief of General Staff and Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., and then a junior politician. Rabin held this office until 1977, when the Israeli Labour Party (a late incarnation of the historical Mapai, Ben Gurion’s party, who founded the State of Israel) was defeated by Menachem Begin’s Likud right-wing party – a delayed reaction to the Yom Kippur disaster.
Landing on his Feet
When Begin established his government, he took Moshe Dayan as his lawfully wedded Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Dayan crossed the political divide from mid-left to right.
This Begin’s choice didn’t pass without harsh criticism: You, Menachem Begin, blamed Dayan for his major responsibility for the national disaster, and now, as a “prize” you “upgrade” him?!
Begin’s answer was: “Dayan will not touch any defense issue” – a false answer, since according to the Israeli constitutional system all the government members bear joint and collective responsibility for any governmental action.
Golda Meir died in 1978, at the age of 80.
Moshe Dayan died in 1981, at the age of 66.
Sic transit gloria mundi.
For further reading (Warning: the info in Wikipedia is not necessarily always correct, very often beautified): Golda Meir, Levi Eshkol, Moshe Dayan, Six Day War, Yom Kippur War, Agranat Commission.
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