Eye of the Beholder

Zvi Zamir's book, "Eyes Wide Open," presents the theory that, contrary to Military Intelligence reports, Mossad excelled in its warnings that the 1973 Arab-Israeli war was coming.

In two weeks it will be Yom Kippur, and the (nearly ) 40-year war on the sidelines of the war is once more picking up. Zvi Zamir, in his book "Eyes Wide Open," arrives as a heat-seeking missile, locking onto the tail of former Military Intelligence chief Eli Zeira, chasing him at every turn. The two retired major generals continue their skirmishing deep into the ninth decade of their lives.

In his book, Zamir is trying to convince us that, contrary to Military Intelligence reports, Mossad excelled in its warnings that war was coming, and that Zeira was responsible for the deadly 2002 revelation of the identity of the agency's top agent in Egypt, Ashraf Marwan (son-in-law of Egypt's strongman, Gamal Abdel Nasser, and confidant of his successor, Anwar Sadat ).

Zamir used to focus only on Zeira. Now, next to the former Military Intelligence chief on the defendants' bench, he places the then-defense minister, Moshe Dayan, who relied on his loyalty and assessments. Much to his convenience, Zamir exonerates Dayan's rivals - Prime Minister Golda Meir, the ministers Israel Galili and Yigal Alon, then-chief of staff David Elazar and his predecessor, Haim Bar-Lev. Zamir was appointed to head Mossad with the lobbying of the anti-Dayan faction in the ruling party, and to ensure that this position of power would not be manned by someone affiliated with Dayan - like Meir Amit, the outgoing head of the agency. The maneuvering in the divided faction cost Israel in blood, and not for the last time.

On the morning of October 5, 1973, Zeira informed Dayan and Elazar: "Zvika received this evening a message from his sources, and it is a good source. He gave a warning that something is going to happen, and asked that Zvika go meet him immediately. He will see him tonight at 10. We prepared a list of questions. I should add that his schedule is such that tonight he will see Zvika and then he is going to another country, and on Sunday he returns to Egypt. Sadat can also go to war without him."

Dayan responded caustically: "Easily. I don't want to say that it also possible without Zvika."

The coded warning that Zamir phoned in at the end of his talk with Ashraf Marwan ("The company is due to sign the contract this evening" ) could have been sent a critical day earlier, and the agent could have sent it himself. Zamir is also unable to lift the responsibility from Golda for ignoring the warning which she received from Jordan's King Hussein on September 25. The most shocking conclusion in the book is the lie of Supreme Court President Shimon Agranat, who said the secret about the Meir-Hussein meeting had not been brought to the attention of the Commission of Inquiry he headed.

In spite of the warnings from Hussein and the data on Arab capabilities provided by Military Intelligence and Mossad, Golda, Dayan and Elazar opted for the assessment of intentions made by Military Intelligence, over those made by deputy chief of staff Israel Tal and his aide in planning, Avraham Tamir.

In an overall summation, it appears that Marwan was a wasted asset. The head of Mossad is not a common intelligence officer and not even the head of Tzomet, the branch which recruits and operates agents. His job is not limited to espionage, preventing terrorist attacks, assassinations and sabotage. He must follow energetically every opportunity for clandestine dialogue - direct or indirect - with enemies. This is what Meir Amit did with Egypt before him, and Yitzhak Hofi did after him.

When an agent like Marwan appears, it is clear that someone should use him for espionage. Neither Golda Meir nor Zamir tried to use this channel of communication available into the inner circle of Sadat, even in a bilateral way - either through Marwan directly, or another close associate to Sadat who he would have recommended and kept an eye on, without being exposed - for serious dialogue on a political solution, which would prevent the implementation of the declared threat of war.

News of war, as early as spring 1973, did not frighten the Israeli leadership. Its response was not "oh my God," but "Why not?" (all rights reserved to Elazar ). Golda did not go out of her way to talk with Sadat in order to prevent the war. Zamir did not pave a path for her. For this to happen, eyes that were more wide open and farsighted were necessary.

And instead of Golda and Sadat, it is possible to write "Netanyahu" and "Abbas."