The War of Atone­ment: The Inside Sto­ry of the Yom Kip­pur War

Chaim Her­zog
  • Review
By – September 8, 2011

Case­mate Pub­lish­ers has reis­sued The­War of Atone­ment: The Inside Sto­ry of the Yom Kip­pur War by Chaim Her­zog. When this book was first pub­lished in 1975 it was wide­ly acknowl­edged as one of the best accounts of the Yom Kip­pur War, and it still is. Her­zog, who was Direc­tor of Israeli Mil­i­tary Intel­li­gence, knew all the major deci­sion-mak­ers on the Israeli side. These rela­tion­ships enabled him to pro­vide use­ful back­ground infor­ma­tion and analysis. 

There are many books recount­ing the bat­tles between Egypt and Israel and Syr­ia and Israel dur­ing the Yom Kip­pur War, but The War of Atone­ment also includes chap­ters con­cern­ing the abortive diplo­mat­ic efforts of the Arab states and Israel between the Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kip­pur War. These chap­ters are par­tic­u­lar­ly use­ful in explain­ing the caus­es of the Yom Kip­pur War by pro­vid­ing the rel­e­vant diplo­mat­ic and his­tor­i­cal context. 

The Yom Kip­pur War was the last major war fought between mul­ti­ple Arab states and Israel. Most peo­ple recall that Egypt and Syr­ia launched a sur­prise simul­ta­ne­ous attack against Israel on Yom Kip­pur. But by the war’s end, Israel was also fight­ing troops from Iraq, Moroc­co, and Jor­dan. Dur­ing the war, Egypt and Israel engaged in the largest tank bat­tle since the Bat­tle of Kursk in World War II. In addi­tion, this was the first war where the com­bat­ants engaged in naval bat­tles using ship-to-ship guid­ed mis­siles rather than naval guns or tor­pe­does. In addi­tion to pro­vid­ing a detailed account of each of the major bat­tles as well as use­ful infor­ma­tion on the polit­i­cal lead­ers and gen­er­als of both sides, the author recounts in detail the hero­ism of indi­vid­ual Israeli army units that were great­ly out­num­bered dur­ing the first few days of the war. In read­ing his account of the war, one is remind­ed that he was writ­ing at a time when the Israeli army was at its peak and had not yet declined into an army char­ac­ter­ized by tac­ti­cal mediocrity. 

The author was also pre­scient in many respects. In not­ing the Sovi­et Union’s ship­ment of FROG bal­lis­tic mis­siles to Syr­ia and SCUD mis­siles to Egypt pri­or to the war, he wrote, Civil­ian pop­u­la­tions will be exposed to no less a degree than the mil­i­tary forces in any future war.” This pre­dic­tion was borne out dur­ing the 1991 Gulf War when Iraq launched 39 SCUD mis­siles at Israeli cities as well as the 2006 Sec­ond Lebanon War when more than 1,000 rock­ets and mis­siles were launched against Israeli cities and towns. 

Gil Ehrenkranz is a lawyer in the Dis­trict of Colum­bia spe­cial­iz­ing in telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions law and inter­na­tion­al trans­ac­tions. He has been pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished in MID­STREAM Mag­a­zine includ­ing an arti­cle con­cern­ing Israeli mil­i­tary options regard­ing Iran’s nuclear weapons pro­gram., as well as in the Mid­dle East Review of Inter­na­tion­al Affairs

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