Nothing Has Changed Since the Yom Kippur War

Nothing Has Changed Since the Yom Kippur War

The act of atonement in which we are engaged over the recently declassified documents from the Yom Kippur War is nothing but a hollow pagan ritual. Suddenly we learn that Golda Meir considered ordering an "insane" operation against Syria and said the world was "contemptible;" defense minister Moshe Dayan called for abandoning wounded soldiers in the field and was thoroughly depressed; and Israel Defense Forces chief of staff David Elazar tended to lie to the public.

We love to indulge in discussing the blunders of 1973, imagining that they belong to the ancient past. All the responsible parties are dead, but the topic is still alive and kicking. The winds of 1973 blow hard today, and nothing has changed. The fact is that today, when each of Golda’s pronouncements and Dayan’s proposals are headlines once again, nobody remembers another error from this period, a much more critical mistake, by the same gang, made when it squandered the opportunity, in the early 1970s, of reaching an agreement with Egypt. Had a real lesson been learned from the Yom Kippur War, the scandal would have been attributed to this missed chance for negotiations – the same error that is being made today.

In the early 1970s, there was a genuine prospect for peace with Egypt. President Gamal Abdel Nasser agreed to the Rogers Plan, to which all subsequent peace proposals bear a striking resemblance, and even invited World Jewish Congress head Nahum Goldmann to confer with him. Golda blocked the meeting and ridiculed the idea, and Dayan declared, "Better to have Sharm el-Sheikh without peace." The rest is history: Israel always prefers war to peace, and if there is no choice then we’ll make peace after a war, never before. Peace with Egypt, the withdrawal from south Lebanon and recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization, all took place only after blood was shed, never before.

Nothing has changed in 37 years. It’s the same arrogant hubris, the same obstinate resistance to any prospect of an agreement, the same failure to recognize that only peace will save us from another defense minister who sinks into an existential depression while warning of an impending holocaust. What’s the point of this festival of 1973 war documents and this retroactive dance of death? Why look back, if on the day the settlement building freeze ended the settlers did a remarkably accurate imitation of the dance of arrogance that preceded the 1973 war?

There is no difference between the Plymouth Valiants driven by the lords of Israel in those days, the generals who went to Tel Aviv restaurants where their photographs decorated the walls, and today’s torpor. The same drunken blindness is at play, even if the cult of the generals has since been curbed. Nasser sought peace in the early 1970s, and Bashar Assad, Mahmoud Abbas and the Arab League are knocking in vain at Israel’s closed door in 2010. We mocked and turned a deaf ear then; we mock and turn a deaf ear now. We have examined photographs from parties in those power-drunk days and failed to find a hint of sobriety, or even a hangover, today. Look at us then and see us today. The fun and games continue, and the state shouts for joy, now as then.

Clip and save the bread and circuses: National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau promising power stations on the occupied Golan Heights and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz promising a railroad on the occupied West Bank, just as Dayan and Shimon Peres promised a "deep-water harbor" at Yamit. It’s the same story – the jubilation over natural gas discoveries, the roars of joy over the bulldozers in the settlements, the blunt indifference to world opinion, the apathy to the ills of the occupation, the obsession with trivialities, the gossip columns that bow to the rich and powerful, the small screen that keeps us from knowing what is really happening and the smokescreen of complacency that shrouds it all. Clip and save, and when the next scandal over a failure of leadership arises, in much less than 37 years, once again we won’t be able to pretend to be shocked and surprised.

Take the Home Front Command public service message in which a cute soldier tells actress Tiki Dayan not to hurry, she can continue to fry her schnitzels. Listen to the soldier, in her voice: Keep pounding those chicken cutlets, thin, just the way we like, there’s nothing urgent.