Lessons not learned: Israel in the post-Yom Kippur War era

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Despite being the most traumatic event in Israel's history and despite its enormous impact on Israeli strategic thinking, the 1973 Yom Kippur War has never been investigated thoroughly and professionally by any of the Israeli military or civilian organs that participated in it. Consequently, many lessons learned from the war were based on intuition rather than method. This article focuses on three main aspects of the failure on the part of actors to learn from the experience of the war: 1) The intelligence domain. Following the war, the principal effort was invested in the intelligence community's reorganization, with insufficient attention being paid to other causes for the intelligence failure. These include the personal managerial styles of senior intelligence officers; norms of relations between intelligence and decision makers; and the suitability of Military Intelligence to serve as the national intelligence estimator. 2) The massive IDF buildup in the decade following the war. This buildup was motivated by the belief that Israel was not strong enough in 1973, as policymakers ignored the major impact that the intelligence fiasco had on the IDF's ability to meet the Arab challenges during the war's first days, as well as various indicators of Arab (especially Egyptian) inclination to put an end to the conflict with Israel. The magnitude of the buildup contributed significantly to Israel's economic crisis of the early 1980s. 3) The belief that it was the war's outcome which enabled Sadat to launch his peace initiative. Policy-makers who propagated this thesis ignored the Egyptian attempts to reach a political settlement with Israel prior to the war. The article concludes by examining the impact that the lessons that were not learned in 1973 had in shaping Israel's strategy during the al Aqsa Intifada.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-83
Number of pages14
JournalIsrael Affairs
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Political Science and International Relations


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