Forty-two pages of the 1500-page long awaited final report of the Agranat Committee on the conduct of the Yom Kippur War were made public here this evening. The full report was submitted earlier in the day to Premier Yitzhak Rabin and will be formally presented to the Cabinet next Sunday.
The report, which covers the first three days of the war, deliberately refrained from assigning responsibility for shortcomings on the political level. The three-man panel, headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Shimon Agranat, claimed that its sole task was to investigate the conduct of the war by the military.
The relatively tiny segment handed to journalists therefore contains no bombshells and is not likely to precipitate a national controversy such as greeted publication of the committee’s interim report last April. But there was tension in the air tonight nevertheless. The document largely confirms the findings of the interim report which led to the resignation of Army Chief of Staff Gen. David Elazar and the resignations or demotion of several senior army intelligence officers.
Four of the 42 pages released tonight are devoted to the shortcomings of Gen. Shmuel Gonen who was commander of the southern front when Egyptian forces launched their surprise attack across the Suez Canal on Oct. 6, 1973.
While the Agranat panel found Gonen to be an outstanding and courageous commander on the divisional level, with an excellent military record, it found his abilities inadequate to command larger formations in actual battle. The criticism of Gonen concentrated largely on events of Oct. 8 when Israeli forces suffered a severe setback in their first attempt to counter-attack advancing Egyptian forces.
SHARON’S ACTION VINDICATED
The report said: “The investigations into the preparations and handling of the battle of the 8th of Oct. convinced us that Gonen did not stand up to the expectations as a frontal commander; he did not prepare for battle in a fundamental way; he did not prepare a detailed operation order and did not see to it that the order reached the divisional commanders; did not make sure that his forces concentrated properly toward the operation; did not ask to see the plans of his subordinates and therefore was unable to approve them.”
The report vindicated Gen. Ariel Sharon, a Yom Kippur War hero, of breach of discipline in his initial refusal to obey an attack order issued by Gonen which Sharon considered inadvisable. The report said that Sharon’s judgement was confirmed by the adverse results when he finally carried the order out, Sharon, who founded the Likud party, served in the Knesset until last month when he announced that he was quitting to resume his army career.
GONEN CLAIMED FALSIFICATIONS
Following publication of the Agranat Committee’s earlier interim report, Gonen claimed that its criticism of him had been based on material contained in allegedly falsified log books for Oct. 8 and claimed that vital tape recordings of battlefield communications were missing. The Agranat panel recommended initially that Gonen be suspended and denied further commissions in the army. In its final report, however, the committee recommended that he be allowed to continue his military service though not above the divisional command level or a parallel level at general headquarters.
FULL IMPACT ON PUBLIC AWAITED
The report found that while Israel’s counter-attack on Oct. 8 was a failure, it nevertheless shaped future developments on the Sinai battlefield. Although the Egyptians were not thrown back across the Suez Canal, they were contained within their initial bridgehead, their weak spots were discovered, and Israeli forces eventually were able to break through their lines and establish a large salient on the west bank of the canal which they held until last year’s disengagement accord, the report noted.
According to the final report, Israel’s northern command functioned much better than the southern command when the war broke out. The northern command was aware of impending trouble, warned GHQ of its likelihood and strengthened its forces so that the Syrian attack did not achieve the same degree of surprise as the attack by Egypt, the report said.
Military and political commentators discussed the released portions of the final report for hours on radio and television tonight but reached no consensus. The reaction of the public is yet to be felt. Likud leader Menachem Beigin suggested that for the moment, Israelis would endorse that sentence of the report which pays homage to Israeli soldiers who shed their blood in battle.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.