Mossad Chief Didn't Tell PM Directly of 1973 War Threat

Mossad chief Zvi Zamir erred when he did not inform then prime minister Golda Meir of the warning he received from Israel's agent in Cairo of the pending Egyptian-Syrian attack in October 1973, according to a chapter of the Agranat Committee's report that was recently released for publication.

Established to investigate the failure to identify the surprise joint attack on Israel, the committee concluded that Zamir made an error when, on September 30, 1973, he informed Military Intelligence - but not Meir or defense minister Moshe Dayan directly - of the warning of a pending attack the following day, on October 1, which did not materialize.

The section of the Agranat Committee's report that was kept confidential is now available to the public at the Israel Defense Forces archive. The chapter, which deals with intelligence, was censored in 1995, when the committee's report was released to the public.

In its final recommendations, the Agranat Committee called for the dismissal of the Military Intelligence chief at the time, Major General Eli Zeira. However, the classified section also included criticism of Zamir's conduct and decision making. Nevertheless, the committee praised the work of the Mossad and of Zamir, in particular.

The committee concluded that Zamir's explanation concerning his conduct on the eve of the war, after he had received a warning from Ashraf Marwan (the son-in-law of Egypt's president Gamal Abdel Nasser), "is not acceptable to us."

On the night between October 4 and 5, 1973, at 2:30 A.M., a message was received by the Mossad, suggesting that war was about to begin.

Zamir told the committee that the warning included no specific date of an offensive. "If we knew the date, there is no doubt that I would not have waited a moment ... It was not clear to me whether it was October 6, or perhaps October 12."

According to the committee's report, Zamir's order to inform the prime minister's military secretary, Major General Israel Lior, of this development "was too vague and lacked what was necessary to ensure that the information brought before Meir was nothing but routine. The correct judgment would have been for Zamir, even before dealing with the matter that morning, to have personally communicated with the prime minister and verbally informed her as much as possible about the message he received ...

"In assessing the situation there is an element of intuition, and the likelihood should not be excluded that this direct message ... would have affected the views that the prime minister has created for herself about the 24 hours prior to receiving the final warning in the morning of Yom Kippur," the report says.

Meir had told the committee that she read a great deal of intelligence reports and had asked Zamir to send her all the material he considered important - but did not specify the kind of material she wanted to see.

Zamir said that he could not send her all the information available because Meir would not have been able to handle the volume. He assumed that the prime minister received materials disseminated by Military Intelligence, or those which he sent to them. He also noted that some of the sources which she wanted to see herself were automatically sent to her.

The delay in passing the September 30 warning to Meir was explained by Zamir as being caused by the need to check authenticity. During the assessment on October 2, more information was received, in which the source insisted that Israel would be attacked, and added that the operation would begin as an exercise and develop into an offensive.

This message was also not conveyed to Meir. During discussions at the Mossad the next day, Zamir said that the source "may be confusing an exercise and war," and did not attribute "first-rank importance" to the information.