Revisiting the Yom Kippur War

Article excerpt

edited by P. R. Kumaraswamy. London: Frank Cass, 2000. 249 pp. $45.00.

This collection often articles by Israeli scholars covers the military, political, economic, and social implications of the 1973 war between Israel, Egypt, and Syria. Although the war began disastrously, Israel emerged militarily superior to both Arab countries but at a huge cost in casualties and severe strains on the country's economy. Egypt still commemorates as a major victory the feat of its armies in crossing the Suez Canal and driving Israeli forces deep into the Sinai peninsula. The fact that Egyptian and Syrian forces were eventually defeated is overlooked by Cairo in the annual celebrations commemorating "the crossing."

A central theme in discussion of Israel's role in the war is the failure of its intelligence services, the lack of preparation for coping with Egyptian and Syrian military initiatives, and the self-deception of army and political leaders who were wedded to an outmoded "conception" about the military capabilities of the Arab states. As a result of victory in 1967 the country's leaders believed Israel was invincible because of its qualitative superiority. Attachment to this "conception" led higher echelons of military intelligence to ignore critical information about changes in Arab strategy and military capabilities.

In discussing military aspects of the war several authors underscore the perilous situation during the first week when Israel "was quite close to a comprehensive defeat". Defense Minister Moshe Dayan warned of total collapse and "fatal consequences" for Israel.

After Israel suffered casualties and loss of materiel greater than in any of its wars, the tide was turned -- to a large extent because of military supplies from the United States. In his article on diplomacy and the war, Simcha Dinitz, then Israel's ambassador in Washington, presents a first-hand account of the problems encountered in putting together the American aid package that saved Israel from defeat. He describes the problems in organizing a huge airlift of American weapons and ammunition to the front lines. …