…And More on Eli Zeira, Ex-Aman (Military Intelligence) Chief and his 1973 War Mistakes

Further to the item (below) about ex-Mossad director Zvi Zamir and ex-Aman (military intelligence) commander Eli Zeira’s continued, bitter arguments about the Yom Kippur War, exactly 40 years ago in October 1973:

Zeira, from his own defensiveness and imagination, conjured up the notion that Ashraf Marwan — the incredibly well-placed Mossad agent in Cairo (a member of the elite Nasser family) — was a double agent and may have been ultimately loyal to Egypt.

Zeira was out to minimize his own responsibility for the intelligence failures that led to Israel being taken by surprise by Egypt and Syria.

He has even said that the political echelon — Prime Minister Golda Meir and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan — were chiefly to blame. By that logic, the Aman agency’s failure to take the Egyptian-Syrian threat seriously was not nearly as important as mistakes by Meir and Dayan.

Eli Zeira in his heyday (Ynetnews.com)

Another Zeira mistake highlighted recently — and he admits now that it was a wrong call — was not to activate technological capabilities which Israel intelligence had planted at key locations in Egypt: basically, the ability to tap into phone and radio communications. Because using the system would increase the chance of Israeli spies being discovered, it was generally switched off.

But, especially after Israeli intelligence intercepts discovered that Soviet military advisors — and certainly their families — were leaving Egypt, Aman should have realized that war may have been imminent. And the system for monitoring key military moves by Egypt should have been switched on.

When, about a decade ago, Zeira named Ashraf Marwan as the Mossad’s man inside the Egyptian government, Mossad veterans were livid. The security breach would, at the least, endanger Marwan. He did, indeed, mysteriously die in London in 2007.

Israeli police investigated the leak by Zeira, the former intelligence chief, but — apparently to be kind and honor the many years of service of an old retired general — they did not press charges against him.

In September 2004, Yossi Melman wrote in the Haaretz newspaper:

Zeira emphasizes that even if he is found to be correct about [Marwan being a] double agent, “I am solely responsible for the intelligence failure of the Yom Kippur War.”

In his partial apologia, marking the 40th anniversary of the shocking setback for Israel’s military — and society — Zeira has now revealed that he always had a note in his pocket that reminded him, as an intelligence officer, to be humble. On the note were the Hebrew words for: “And what if not?”, meaning that alternative explanations should always be considered.

Zeira admits he failed to consult that note, in the days leading up to the Yom Kippur surprise of 1973.

October 7, 2013

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