Israel's Intelligence Assessment before the Yom Kippur War
By Aryeh Shalev
There was no lack of intelligence; it was the interpretation of the reports that was faulty. - Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, commenting on Israel's Yom Kippur debacle *** Israel's flawed intelligence assessment in October 1973 has been studied intensively and been the subject of much public and professional debate. Israel's Intelligence Assessment before the Yom Kippur War adds a unique dimension to previously disclosed material, as its author served as head of the Research Branch of Israeli Military Intelligence on the eve of and during the Yom Kippur War, and as such was responsible for the national intelligence assessment at the time. Drawing on his personal records, and on interviews and extensive research conducted in the intervening decades, author Aryeh Shalev examines the preconceptions and common beliefs that prevailed among Israeli intelligence officials and ultimately contributed to their flawed assessment: the excessive self-confidence in Israel's prowess, particularly in the aftermath of the Six Day War; the confidence that any surprise attack could be repelled with the regular army until the reserves were mobilized; the accepted profile of Sadat as a weak leader with limited powers and initiative; and the belief in Israel's correct understanding of Egyptian and Syrian operational plans. Beyond explaining where Israeli intelligence erred, the book probes expectations of military intelligence in general and the relationship between military and political assessments. It considers what kind of assessment an intelligence branch is capable of producing with a great degree of certainty, and conversely, what kind of assessment it should not be asked to produce. Based on the intelligence failure of the Yom Kippur War, this book also reviews possible organizational changes and methodological improvements to guard as much as possible against surprise attacks in the future, relevant not only to Israel's circumstances but to all countries with enemies capable of launching an attack.
Publication Date: 7/1/2010