The Yom Kippur War Controversy: Silence Is Golda

King Hussein of Jordan met with then Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and warned her that war was looming. But for immaterial reasons, this detail remains absent from official documents and gives sanction to an ongoing cover-up.

Amir Oren
Amir Oren
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Amir Oren
Amir Oren

The Yom Kippur War is still providing us with scandals, 40 years after it occurred. This time, it’s about continuing the distortion.

The Agranat Commission (the state commission of inquiry that examined the failings in the opening stages of the Yom Kippur War, chaired by then president of the Supreme Court, Moshe Agranat) is dead. But another commission, headed by Justice (ret.) Izhak Englard, was appointed to publish its findings, and is continuing its predecessor’s distortion by concealing material.

On September 25, 1973, Jordan’s King Hussein (code name “Eitan”) came for a meeting with Prime Minister Golda Meir (code name “Malachi” - in 1948, she was “Pazit” in her contacts with his grandfather, Abdullah).

The meeting was kept secret until 1988, when a journalist climbed over the censorship wall and published the story. The meeting became a fundamental issue in the controversy over responsibility for the failure to sound the alarm before the war in October ‘73.

The Agranat Commission placed this responsibility on Military Intelligence, and especially on four MI officers ranked from lieutenant general to general. It also expressed dissatisfaction with certain malfunctions in the operations of the Mossad.

The government was portrayed in the report as a passive intelligence consumer: The professional agents, as it were, gathered information about the enemy and assessed its veracity, importance and significance, while Golda, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Co. were gullibly led astray by the spy handlers, line-tappers and code decipherers.

This was a double distortion, because only the political leadership is able, and authorized, to assess its own activity alongside that of the enemy’s, and then extract an evaluation. It was Golda’s duty, not the uniforms’, to weigh her political and strategic moves in anticipation of the late-October elections, and to estimate the reciprocal relations between them and Military Intelligence’s evaluation. Also, the meeting with such a source - an Arab leader whom she confided in - gave Golda both an opportunity and an obligation to obtain an intelligence impression without intermediaries.

King Hussein came to Golda after meeting Egypt’s Anwar Sadat, Syria’s Hafez Assad and the Saudi king, Faisal. Hussein was also equipped with the reports of his agents in the Syrian army, including the commander of an armored division that was supposed to take part in the attack on the Golan front.

Hussein’s warning - that the Syrian army was in position and ready for action “not without coordination with Egypt” - was gold dust. The GOC Northern Command, which received this warning unofficially and without knowing where it came from, saw it as a reason to increase alertness levels. But Golda preferred to ignore what she had heard with her own ears and relied on the calming MI evaluations, which doubted, as before, the veracity of the Egyptian part of the equation.

It was already revealed in the 1970s that Hussein had been on the payroll of the CIA. The State Department’s official records relate the Hussein-Meir meetings in May and September 1973, and have a report of that spy in Syria’s armored corps. The Israel Defense Forces’ history department’s most authoritative volume about the High Command post in the war, by researcher Shimon Golan, describes the meeting and its content. An even more detailed report by a senior intelligence officer, who observed the meeting secretly, appears on the Golda Meir site put up by her family and those who respect her memory. The report is accompanied by the testimony of Yoav Gelber, a scientific assistant to the Agranat Commission.

Gelber referred to Hussein as a “source” and to Golda as his “handler.” It was all published officially and the Hashemite Kingdom remained unshaken.

But in four days’ time, when Golda’s testimony to the Agranat Commission is published, King Hussein will not be in it. Englard and his colleagues - military expert Benjamin Amidror and journalist Moshe Vardi - gave in to the warnings of unnamed security officials, as if the headline “Golda: Hussein came to warn me of war” would topple Abdullah the grandson.

The Agranat Commission betrayed its obligation to the Israeli public when it decapitated the military leadership and capitulated to the politicians. It is saddening to see the Englard Commission - which has worked devotedly and resiliently in recent years to air dusty materials - obstructing Israelis’ ability to strike a just historical balance in the Golda-Hussein affair. It’s still not too late to rectify the distortion.

Moshe Dayan and Golda Meir in the Golan Heights, during the Yom Kippur War.Credit: Reuters

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