Eyes Wide Open: The Mossad Director Warns, but is Israel Listening?

"Eyes Wide Open" by Zvi Zamir "Eyes Wide Open" by Zvi Zamir

Zvi Zamir had the opportunity to provide his readers with important, never before published details on events he was privy to as director of the Mossad, but he didn’t deliver the goods

Thirty-eight years after the Yom Kippur War, Major General (Ret.) Zvi Zamir, the head of the Mossad during the war, published his new book. “Eyes Wide Open” is divided into three parts. The first describes Zamir’s life until his appointment as director of the Mossad; the second discusses events prior to the Yom Kippur War and its belated warning; the third part attempts to analyze intelligence shortcomings in the prewar period and suggest ways of redressing them.

The motif throughout the book is the unresolved dispute between Zamir and the head of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (Aman)during the war, Major General (Ret.) Eli Zeira, over responsibility for the intelligence failure, the belated warning, and whether or not the senior Egyptian spy, Ashraf Marwan, was a double agent (according to Zamir, he wasn’t).

Ironically, the book’s main contribution lies in its margins. For the first time, we have an eyewitness account of the Mossad and its director in the period after the 1972 massacre of the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. The author also discusses the assassination of terrorist leaders in Beirut during Operation Spring of Youth in 1973; Israel’s support of the Kurdish rebels; the smuggling of Jews out of Iran and Lebanon and bringing them to Israel; and the secret assistance extended to the rebels in South Sudan.

The book explains in detail how the Mossad prevented anti-aircraft missiles from being launched by Libyans against an ELAL airplane in Rome in revenge for the downing of a Libyan passenger plane over Sinai in February 1973.

The heart of the book, however, is General Zamir’s (and the Mossad’s) version of the warnings of the Yom Kippur War. Zamir contends that the Mossad and its key agent, Ashraf Marwan, played an invaluable role in warning about the impending attack, but that the evaluating body—Aman–failed in its task. According to Zamir, before the Yom Kippur War, a senior Egyptian agent, Ashraf Marwan, relayed information to the Mossad about changes in Egypt’s war plans. The Mossad passed the report on to Aman, but the latter ignored it.

To prove the Mossad’s contribution in warning Israel about Egypt’s attack plans, and Aman’s fault for not conveying the warning, Zamir bringing an example from his past. He served as head of the IDF’s Training Division in the early 1960s, and at the time, worked in conjunction with Aman in unraveling the Soviet doctrine, and in this way, contributed directly to the IDF’s victory in the Six Day War.

However, the truth is different (I should mention that this was the subject of my doctorate thesis and the basis of my book “The Egyptian Strategy for the Yom Kippur War”). The Mossad did not report any warning and Aman did not internalize the changes in Egyptian plans that Sadat initiated in late October 1972. To the best of my knowledge, neither Ashraf Marwan, nor Zamir, nor anyone else in the Mossad conveyed exact information to the IDF and the political leaders on developments and changes in Egyptian war plans prior to the war. In fact, they did not contribute anything to “breaking the concept,” and by the morning of October 6, it was too late.

In the third part of the book, Zamir analyzes how the intelligence community should operate so that a failure like the Yom Kippur War does not repeat. Based mostly on the conclusions of the committee that he headed after his retirement from the Mossad in 1974, his analysis appears ad infinitum against professional studies on the Yom Kippur War. There is nothing new in Zamir’s analysis of intelligence work prior to and during the war.

In the literary section of the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, Reuven Pedatzur opined that Zamir’s book “falls short of the mark.” Zamir had the opportunity to provide his readers with important, never before published details on events he was privy to as director of the Mossad, but he didn’t deliver the goods.

I agree with Pedatzur.