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The Fourth Round


P.R. Chari

THE WAR OF ATONEMENT
By Chaim Herzog
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1976, 300, 6.00

VOLUME I NUMBER 1 January - March 1976

Wars generate a spate of books on tactical doc­trine. Chaim Herzog’s book adds to the growing literature on the most important war in recent years,­ the Fourth Arab-Israeli war of 1973: the war which commenced on the day of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of mourning and atonement. Herzog's creden­tials are impeccable. A former head of Israeli military intelligence, he is a military analyst: presently he represents Israel in the United Nations. Herzog would have us believe that the tactical thinking of both the Israelis and the Arabs was power­fully influenced by the Six Day War of 1967, and the subsequent War of Attrition during 1969 and 1970. The territories occupied by Israel gave her strategic depth; it also extended lines of communication. Some confusion of objectives was inevitable—political requirements dictated the need for establishing a perimeter defence against Arab attacks nibbling into the occupied territories; purely military logic dictated defence from defensible lines. The ill-fated Bar Lev Line was constructed along the Sinai side of the Suez Canal at the enormous cost of £40 million and left almost undefended—it fell to the Egyptians within the first few hours of the War. The earlier conflicts also confirmed Israeli faith in the tank and the air­plane as the spearheads of offensive capability, and for a mobile defence role. In appreciation of Israel's superior capabilities in this direction the Arabs planned their defence reorganization around the weapons of defence—the anti-tank missile against Israeli armour, and the surface-to-surface missile against Israeli airplanes. These proved extremely effective in blunting Israeli armour and aerial attacks in the initial stages of the war. Israeli tactical doctrine had failed to develop appropriate countermeasures against the new Arab weaponry. Herzog laments the Israelis ‘consecrating mentally the military concepts that had emerged from the Six Day War, they prepared for the next war as if it were to be the seventh day.’ A question avidly discussed in military establish­ments is whether the Israelis were, indeed, surprised by the Arab attack at 2.00 p.m. on the 6th of October. The question has to be considered in the context of the Israeli defence concept which had three main elements. Advance warning was to be provided by Israeli intelligence. A small regular army and the Israeli air force was to hold the advancing enemy forces. Rapid mobilization of the main element of the fighting forces was thereafter to ...


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