'Golda and Dado Did Not Lose Confidence'

Top aide says context needed to understand Yom Kippur War papers.

Avner Shilo, who was bureau chief of then-chief of staff David Elazar during the Yom Kippur War, told Haaretz yesterday that "it is necessary to understand the context of what happened," in reference to the release of the transcript of the emergency meeting held during the second day of the war by then-prime minister Golda Meir.

"[Moshe] Dayan had lost influence and his statements were neither orders nor instructions but things thrown up in the air...we understood that he is in a terrible mood, but this made no difference; we went back to the south and Dado [Elazar] had already pulled out a plan for a counterattack. The chief of staff managed the war with stability and confidence and brought victory. He made the most correct decisions in critical stages. The leadership was very stable, Golda and Dado did not lose their confidence," Shilo says.

Shilo was present during that meeting, to which Dado arrived after it had already began, and he describes a different picture from the one that emerged following the release of the transcript. He says that "Golda accepted the assessment of Dado, and not that of Dayan. She behaved marvelously during this war - sharp, determined, a genuine leader. Very strong, real steel. Always clear-minded. That is how she ran things... during that meeting I felt that Dayan was... not reading the map correctly. I believed that we had sufficient forces and after a bad start we will overcome and win the war. Dado radiated confidence."

On Dayan, Shilo adds: "We recognized the situation; Dayan could make outlandish proposals, he had no influence. This did not influence us. Dado was entirely confident, and as early as that morning, he had said that we would do everything to pull ourselves up from the floor. The public must appreciate the context - Golda was not affected by that mood, Dayan had ups and downs. This may disappoint many people today; after all, his legend is huge. He was very smart and charismatic, but a very complicated man. Dayan fell victim to the assessment of Eli Zeira [head of Military Intelligence] and did not dream that there would be war."

Retired Major General Amiram Levin also describes that dramatic meeting as "a meeting that was run at a very high professional level; the people realized the situation and discussed seriously, and did not just throw out slogans. There was no loss of cool. True, the situation was difficult, and the size of the arrogance and show-off was equaled by the size of the surprise and harsh reality. For example, the dilemma of the counterattack; what would happen if we failed? These are real dilemmas of generals and leaders, and I was not surprised by what I read [in the transcript.]"

However, unlike Shilo, Levin believes that "Dayan was constantly 48 hours ahead of the army in his understanding of the situation. He said: 'If it is not possible to defend the outposts, defend behind them.'"

Yair Elazar, the youngest son of Dado, following the release of the transcript, said: "Now I can allow myself to keep quiet since the [transcript] speaks for itself."

In a film that he edited on his father, Yair Elazar also addressed the anger that he felt for years following the responsibility that the Agranat Committee, investigating the war, attributed to his father, while the politicians, and especially then-defense minister Dayan, emerged unscathed.

"As far as I am concerned, there is no news here," Elazar said.

Asi Dayan, discussing his father on Channel 2 yesterday, said that "pessimism was in his veins - he was to a certain extend a cynic. He was terribly shocked by the number of dead and the surprise [combined Arab attack]."