Thursday, July 14, 2016

78 - Three Retrospective Accounts of the Circumstances of the December 1955 Kinneret Operation

(A) In his column "From My Archival Memory," Arye Dissenchik, editor of Ma'ariv, wrote on June 3 1976:

            After the large-scale operation carried out in November [sic. December] 1955, in which more than 50 Syrians soldiers and officers we killed, rumors were spreading that PM and Defense Minister Ben-Gurion was unhappy with the operation's dimensions and was surprised at the large number of Syrian casualties. I met with Dayan the day after the operation and asked him: "What is the reason of Ben-Gurion's anger?"
            "I have not heard any rumors," he said. "Had it been better if there were many casualties on the Israeli side and only a few on the Syrians'?"
            I asked him: "Was the operation carried out as planned?"
            "In accordance with what had been planned beforehand," Dayan said, "the forces were brought to their planned [attack] positions. And as was agreed upon. I was to receive a final green light from BG on 03:00 in the morning - or a red one in case of a cancellation. Close to 00:30 I phoned BG's adjutant and military secretary, Colonel Nehemiah Argov, and told him: "Everything is ready as agreed upon. Please wake up BG and ask him for his final order. Within 10 minutes Nehemiah Argov phoned me back and said abruptly: 'Green light. This is it.' I'm not sure whether he talked with BG. It may be that he did not want to wake him up, and said what he said on his own, relying on the deliberations and decisions which took place in daytime, to which he was privy. He was a true messenger of BG, and maybe he did wake up BG and the green light was [actually] given by him."
(B) Moshe Dayan's autobiography is strangely silent about the planning of Operation Kinneret, apart from a single disingenuous sentence - "Nehemiah [Argov] informed me that BG had approved an operation against the Syrian emplacements on the eastern shore of the Kinneret." (December 11, 1955).      Avnei Derekh, 170.

(C) General Uzi Narkiss served at this time as head of the Operations Branch of GHQ. In his autobiography he writes:

 "Operation 'Olive Leaves' did not bring peace to the region. On the contrary, it was an additional push toward the one-way road which would lead to the Sinai Operation. On the internal political level it was a clear sign of the final abandonment of the defense policy followed by Moshe Sharett upon becoming Prime Minister in December 1953. His line, based on restraint, forbearance and on looking to the Western powers and the UN for mediation, had been progressively gnawed at since Ben-Gurion returned to the Defense Ministry in February 1955, and even more so after Ben-Gurion also became PM [in November], becoming at this point completely devastated. Looking back in retrospect, it becomes clear that Ben-Gurion had enlarged the operation intentionally in order to put Sharett up against an established fact of the dominance of his activist policy. [- - -] We, in the high command, opted from the beginning for the activist line and interpreted the operation as a successful one even though the number of our casualties seemed higher than the inevitable minimum."
            Elsewhere Narkiss describes CoS Dayan's disappointment at the lack of an Egyptian counter-attack following the IDF assault on their positions at Nitzana (November 2), which killed some 70 Egyptians. Dayan reportedly gazed into the distance and listened attentively, hoping to hear the noise of approaching Egyptian tanks, but nothing happened.
            "Moshe, what exactly are you driving at," I asked him.
            "That Nasser would mount a counter attack so that then we would rout him for good," he answered.

Uzi Narkiss, Soldier of Jerusalem (Jerusalem: Ministry of Defense Publishing House, 1991) 116, 163-64 [in Hebrew].