Agranat Commission

Agranat Commission

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The Agranat Commission was a National Commision of Inquiry set up to investigate failings in the Israel Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

 in the prelude to the Yom Kippur War
Yom Kippur War
The Yom Kippur War, Ramadan War or October War , also known as the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and the Fourth Arab-Israeli War, was fought from October 6 to 25, 1973, between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria...

, when Israel was found unprepared for the Egyptian attack against the Bar Lev Line
Bar Lev Line
The Bar Lev Line was a chain of fortifications built by Israel along the eastern coast of the Suez Canal after it captured the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt during the 1967 Six-Day War.-Overview:...

 and a simultaneous attack by Syria in the Golan
Golan was a biblical city in Land of Israel. It was in the territory of Manasseh in the Bashan.Golan was the most northerly of the three cities of refuge east of the Jordan River . Manasseh gave this city to the Gershonite Levites .According to the Bible, the Israelites conquered Golan from the...

 — the first phase in a war in which 2,812 Israeli soldiers were killed.

The Commission

The commission was an official National Commission of Inquiry appointed by the Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i government to investigate the circumstances leading to the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War
Yom Kippur War
The Yom Kippur War, Ramadan War or October War , also known as the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and the Fourth Arab-Israeli War, was fought from October 6 to 25, 1973, between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria...

. The Committee
Public Committee (Israel)
Public Committee is a committee appointed by the Israeli Cabinet, or by other various governmental bodies in Israel, and at times with the cooperation of other Israeli public bodies, in order to thoroughly and unbiasedly explore a matter on the public agenda....

 was headed by Shimon Agranat
Shimon Agranat
Shimon Agranat was the President of the Supreme Court of Israel from 1965 until 1976.-Biography:Agranat was born to a Zionist family in Louisville, Kentucky in 1906. He attended the University of Chicago and later its law school. Agranat emigrated to Mandate Palestine in 1930 and settled in...

, Chief Justice of Israel's Supreme Court
Supreme Court of Israel
The Supreme Court is at the head of the court system and highest judicial instance in Israel. The Supreme Court sits in Jerusalem.The area of its jurisdiction is all of Israel and the Israeli-occupied territories. A ruling of the Supreme Court is binding upon every court, other than the Supreme...

. Its other members were Justice Moshe Landau
Moshe Landau
Moshe Landau was an Israeli jurist. He was the fifth President of the Supreme Court of Israel.-Biography:Landau was born in Danzig, Germany to Dr. Isaac Landau and Betty née Eisenstädt...

, State Comptroller
A comptroller is a management level position responsible for supervising the quality of accounting and financial reporting of an organization.In British government, the Comptroller General or Comptroller and Auditor General is in most countries the external auditor of the budget execution of the...

 Yitzchak Nebenzahl, and former Chiefs of Staff Yigael Yadin
Yigael Yadin
Yigael Yadin on 21 March 1917, died 28 June 1984) was an Israeli archeologist, politician, and the second Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces.-Early life and military career:...

 and Chaim Laskov
Chaim Laskov
Haim Laskov was an Israeli public figure and the fifth Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces.-Early life:...

. The Committee sat for 140 sessions, during which they listened to the testimony of 58 witnesses. It was established on 21 November 1973 with a remit to investigate:
  1. The intelligence information for the days preceding the Yom Kippur War on the enemy's moves and intentions to launch the war, the evaluation of this information, and the decisions taken by the responsible military and civil authorities in response thereto.
  2. The general deployment of the IDF in case of war, its state of readiness during the days preceding the Yom Kippur War, and its operations up to the containment of the enemy.

It did not examine the later stages of the war when the IDF went on the offensive.

On 31 December 1973 elections which had been delayed by the war took place. Likud
Likud is the major center-right political party in Israel. It was founded in 1973 by Menachem Begin in an alliance with several right-wing and liberal parties. Likud's victory in the 1977 elections was a major turning point in the country's political history, marking the first time the left had...

 a new political party won 39 seats in the Knesset. Newly elected Member of Knesset
The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

 and one of the Likud founders, Reserve General Arik Sharon gave a newspaper interview in which he was quoted as saying that he would disobey orders that he felt were against the interests of the State or his subordinates. This caused so much public concern that Sharon was asked to appear before the Commission which accepted his testimony that the quote was in the context of a specific event which occurred under very exceptional circumstances.


The commission's report was published in three parts. The interim report, 1 April 1974, called for the dismissal of a number of senior officers in the IDF and caused such controversy that Prime Minister Golda Meir
Golda Meir
Golda Meir ; May 3, 1898 – December 8, 1978) was a teacher, kibbutznik and politician who became the fourth Prime Minister of the State of Israel....

 was forced to resign. The second part was published 10 July 1974 and contained the reasons for the conclusions of the first report. The final part of the report was published on 30 January 1975. One consequence of the Commission's investigation was the "Basic Law: The Army (1975)" clarifying the IDF's legal status.

The Interim Report

Published on 1 April 1974 the Interim Report caused a sensation.
Its headline recommendation was the dismissal of four senior officers in Military Intelligence. The Chief of Military Intelligence Major General Eliyahu Zeira
Eli Zeira
Eli Zeira is a former Major General in the Israel Defense Forces. He was director of Aman, Israel's military intelligence, during the 1973 Yom Kippur War...

, his deputy Brigadier David (Aryeh) Shalev, the head of the Egyptian Department Lt Colonel Yona Benman, and the chief intelligence officer in the Southern Command Lt Colonel David Gadila. Its was critical of a what it called the "concept" in Military Intelligence thinking. This was based on the assumption that Egypt would only attack if it had the air-power to take on the Israeli Air Force
Israeli Air Force
The Israeli Air Force is the air force of the State of Israel and the aerial arm of the Israel Defense Forces. It was founded on May 28, 1948, shortly after the Israeli Declaration of Independence...

. It was also thought that Syria would only attack if Egypt did. In the absence of any upgrading of Egypt's air force it was concluded there was no threat of imminent war. This led to complacency and evidence being ignored. For example on 1 October and again on 3 October 1973, Lieutenant Benjamin Siman Yov, order of battle intelligence officer for the Southern Command gave his superior Lt Colonel Gadalia documents indicating Egypt's war preparations.
In its examination of the senior echelons of the IDF the commission also concluded that GOC Southern Command Shmuel Gonen
Shmuel Gonen
Shmuel "Gorodish" Gonen was an Israeli general and Chief of the Southern Command of the Israel Defense Forces during the Yom Kippur War.-Early life:...

 should be dismissed. After his departure Gonen argued that he had only been in the post for a few months and that the command had been neglected by his predecessor Arik Sharon.
The Commission also found Chief of Staff Dado Elazar
David Elazar
David "Dado" Elazar was the ninth Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, serving in that capacity from 1972 to 1974. He was forced to resign in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War.-Early life:...

 responsible. But it refused to give an opinion on the responsibility of the Minister of Defence Moshe Dayan
Moshe Dayan
Moshe Dayan was an Israeli military leader and politician. The fourth Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces , he became a fighting symbol to the world of the new State of Israel...

 arguing that this was beyond its remit.

This caused public uproar and unhappiness in the army. In Abba Eban
Abba Eban
Abba Eban was an Israeli diplomat and politician.In his career he was Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister, Education Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and ambassador to the United States and to the United Nations...

's words "The conclusions ... did not seem to accord with the narrative" Yitzhak Rabin
Yitzhak Rabin
' was an Israeli politician, statesman and general. He was the fifth Prime Minister of Israel, serving two terms in office, 1974–77 and 1992 until his assassination in 1995....

 walked out of the cabinet with Elazar. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets. Nine days after the publication of the Interim Report Golda Meir
Golda Meir
Golda Meir ; May 3, 1898 – December 8, 1978) was a teacher, kibbutznik and politician who became the fourth Prime Minister of the State of Israel....

 announced the resignation of her government.

After his dismissal Elazar maintained that had he been given more of the information he would have mobilized the IDF sooner. But this only confirmed the Commissions criticisms about the reliance on a single avenue for intelligence analysis. Elazar died two years later aged 48.

The Final Report

The final part of the Report was published on 30 January 1975. The completed Report was 1,500 pages long, with 746 pages devoted to the fighting in the south and 311 to the north. Forty two pages were made public, the remainder being kept secret. Besides the IDF's failures it looked at the issues around civilian and political control of the army and found a "lack of clear definitions...". Surprisingly they could not find a clear statement of civilian control over the military. They argued that Basic Law: The Cabinet (1968) implied authority when it stated that the Cabinet has authority over all areas not covered by other legislation. Later critics argued that the Cabinet's authority stemmed from the IDF Order (1948) which authorised the Minister of Defence to set up the army. Further questions arouse over hundreds of orders issued by Chiefs of Staff since 1948 without authorisation from the Minister of Defence. These discoveries led to the swift enactment of Basis Law: The Army (1975). Its main clause stated:
  • The Army is subject to the authority of the Cabinet.
  • The Minister responsible is the Minister of Defence.
  • The supreme commander of the Army is the Chief of Staff.
  • The Chief of Staff is subject to the authority of Cabinet and subordinate to the Minister of Defence.

The new law still left some issues unresolved, such as who appoints a Chief of Staff? Is the Chief of Staff the most senior officer in the army?

In practice the controversy about the report's absence of criticism of Moshe Dayan led to a strengthening of the Chief of Staff's position since he could argue that if the Chief of Staff had sole responsibility it must the Chief of Staff's decision. The Chief of Staff was now a regular attender of Cabinet Meetings.

The Commission was critical of the standard of everyday discipline in the IDF:
"Discipline is indivisible. For example, a soldier who becomes accustomed in time of peace not to observe the minor rules, such as in matters of personal appearance, without being alerted to this failure by his superior officer, will in the end be negligent in carrying out operational orders."

As a response to the Commissions criticism of using Military Intelligence as the sole route for analysis of information the Foreign Ministry established a Research and Planning Department. Despite this, five years later the 29th Comptrollers Report into the conduct of the IDF during Operation Litani
Operation Litani
The 1978 South Lebanon conflict was an invasion in Lebanon up to the Litani River carried out by the Israel Defense Forces in 1978. It was a military success for the Israeli Defense Forces, as PLO forces were pushed north of the river...

 which left 21 IDF soldiers dead, concluded that "conditions same as 1973". The Report's author was Yitzhak Nebenzahl
Yitzhak Nebenzahl
Yitzhak Ernst Nebenzahl was appointed State Comptroller of the State of Israel after the establishment of the state in 1948. He served as State Comptroller and Ombudsman from 1961-81....

, member of the Agranat Commission.

The full text of the report, except for 48 pages, was made public 1 January 1995.

Critique of the report

The findings of the Agranat Commission have been the focus of sharp debate among the Israeli public up until today. Particular criticism relates to its exoneration of the country's political leadership, especially Defense Minister Dayan. According to the Report: "As long as he accepts the opinions of his advisers, he does not bear any personal responsibility."

Further criticism responds to the Commission's recommendations, stemming from the failure of military intelligence to assess the Arab states' intent, that the IDF should not consider the intentions of hostile states, but rather their capacity for war. Thirty years later, Giora Eiland
Giora Eiland
Giora Eiland is Major General Israel Defense Forces. Eiland is former Israel's National Security Advisor. He is a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies and holds an M.B.A. and B.A...

, Head of the National Security Council, wrote: "Both the proscription against considering intent and the concentration on the prevention of threats—two central messages of the Agranat Commission [Report]—frustrated and delayed the rebuilding and preparedness of the IDF for years."

Further reading

  1. The Yom Kippur War: The Epic Encounter That Transformed the Middle East by Abraham Rabinovich
    Abraham Rabinovich
    Abraham Rabinovich is a historian and journalist who has published several books on recent Jewish history. As a reporter, his work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, The New Republic, and the Christian Science Monitor. Before becoming a...

    . ISBN 0-8052-4176-0

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