Netanyahu Must Learn From Lessons of Yom Kippur War

Recently uncovered Yom Kippur documents should teach us the lessons of short-sightedness, complacence and misguided intelligence that preceded the war.

The Israel State Archives are releasing documents this week containing discussions by political and security officials from the first four days of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Wednesday marks 37 years since the war, perhaps the most trying experience in Israel's history.

David Elazar Yom Kippur
Government Press Office

It is commendable that those who fought in the war or lost loved ones, and those born in following generations, can now read the texts documenting the war. It's sad that it took so long to release them. State archivists should understand that their responsibility goes beyond paperwork and doing the bidding of politicians with something to hide. Instead, their obligation is to history itself - that is, preserving the historical record and letting each individual draw his or her own conclusions from it.

The first document in the series, of an October 7 cabinet meeting (the day after the war broke out ) led by prime minister Golda Meir, offers no startling revelations. Those present have described the meeting and revealed the important parts of what was said there, even if the account remained incomplete. The disputes within Israel's leadership - between Meir and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, between Dayan and Israel Defense Forces chief David Elazar and between Elazar and Military Intelligence, the Air Force and commanders on the ground - have been assessed and reassessed countless times over the past few decades.

Precisely because these documents offer nothing new under the sun, it's important to learn the lessons of short-sightedness, complacence and misguided intelligence that preceded the war. Meir, Dayan, Elazar, elected officials and army officers all failed to see the limitations of Israel's use of force and the possible forms its enemies' operations would take. Israel was resting on the laurels of its military achievements and conquests six years earlier in the Six-Day War, and failed to make an audacious, genuine effort to trade the territories in exchange for peace and security.

The Netanyahu government includes ministers who experienced the war firsthand, and are now sitting in the chairs once occupied by Meir and Dagan. They bear responsibility for pursuing peace and compromise over stagnation and the threat of renewed war.