I often report on Israeli advances and victories that have brought us to the current situation. But, in fact Israeli leaders have made significant mistakes in dealing with our reality. What are the greatest mistakes Israel has made:
- The Temple Mount: One of the greatest mistakes was that made by Moshe Dayan, then Defense Minister, when after the Israeli victory of the Six-Day War of 1967, he magnanimously gave control of the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism where the Temple once stood, to the Muslims. The Waqf, the Muslim Trust that administers the Muslim Holy Sites, including the two Mosques on what they call the Haram al Sharif, the Nobel Sanctuary, was given control of the site, even though Israel retains ultimate sovereignty. Dayan was quite an impulsive man, there are many anecdotes about him (including his stealing of ancient artifacts that belonged to the State, and several love affairs), and he was notoriously arrogant. He believed, that because he grew up with the Arabs he knew their mentality, so he thought if he gave them control of the Temple Mount they would be forever grateful and would be cooperative with the Israeli authorities. He could not have been more wrong. On the contrary, at every step the Muslim authorities have acted to oppose Israel and Jewish presence on the Mount. He also gave control of the Mount to the Jordanian King, which in itself was a mistake, because it confuses the question of sovereignty. But, this is the so-called status quo, that everybody, including Israeli PM Netanyahu, assures the Muslims that he will uphold. But, the Waqf has excavated a huge area under the Mount and has destroyed unbelievable archeological treasures without Israeli interference, and has allowed Palestinian youths to store explosives in the Mosques and then to mount attacks from the Mosques on Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall below. If only Dayan had put Jewish interests first before those of the Muslims, we would not be in the situation we are in now.
- The Yom Kippur War: The intelligence failure of the Israeli authorities in 1973, to not see the blatant signs of an impending attack by Pres. Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Pres. Hafez Assad of Syria is perhaps the greatest failure of Israel’s existence. The major culprit was Gen. Eli Zeira who was in Head of Military Intelligence and who reported to PM Golda Meir. He was so arrogant that despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, he refused to believe that the Egyptians had any military capability and that they could not coordinate an attack with the Syrians. He was totally wrong. He rejected the warnings of King Hussein himself to Golda Meir and the best secret agent Israel ever had, Ashraf Marwan, who was the son-in-law of Sadat, that an attack was coming, even with the approximate date. When the Egyptian armies massed in Sinai, Zeira bought the excuse that they were there for routine exercises. Even the day before the attack he still maintained that there was no need for the IDF to go on alert. What a terrible mistake, that caused at least 3,000 Israeli casualties. And who saved us all from disaster, it was Gen. Ariel Sharon, who was a brilliant general if not as good a politician.
- The return of Arafat: Yasir Arafat and the PLO were a dying, if not a dead, cause, when PM Yitzhak Rabin, in a calculated move, rescued him from obscurity and brought him back to Palestine in 1994 and put him in charge of the Palestine Authority that had been established as part of the Oslo Accords of 1993. After all it made sense, Arafat was finished, he had been exiled in Tunis in 1982 when his forces were defeated by the IDF in the First Lebanon War. But, he had been rescued then by the intervention of the Americans, who saw to it that the PLO would live to fight another day. However, no Arab country would take him, except finally Tunisia. But after some years even they were growing hostile to his presence, and an Israeli raid on Tunis in 1988 destroyed much of Arafat’s credibility. If Rabin had not rescued him from exile and brought him back he would have died in obscurity there. Even the local Palestinian organizers of the First Intifada (uprising) against Israel did not want him here. But, Rabin thought Arafat would be grateful to Israel for saving him and he would be a “partner for peace.” On the contrary, instead of seeking peace he organized terrorism. Instead of fighting Hamas as Rabin had hoped, he cooperated with them. So we had the Second Intifada that caused ca. 1,000 Israeli deaths. Why was not Rabin smart enough to see that he could not trust Arafat and that he should have let him die in obscurity in Tunis?
What are the lessons of these mistakes: 1. Never trust the Arabs; 2. Never trust your own judgement, it can be influenced by your own irrational beliefs and arrogance; 3. Despite everything Israel is here to stay. If we could survive those massive mistakes we can survive anything.