As if the spree of articles on the 40-year anniversary of the 1973 Yom Kippur War had not satisfied the nation's craving for fast-day self-flagellation, this morning, on the secular anniversary of the war, the media are once again treating history as if it were current events.
Currently, one of the hottest topics is a revelation that has come up before: the allegation that Moshe Dayan sought to equip Israeli missiles with nuclear warheads.
The information was first reported years ago. Recently, it became more credible due to testimony from one of Dayan's advisors, then-Minister Without Portfolio Yisrael Galili. Galili said the defense minister had invited the head of the Atomic Energy Commission, Shalhevet Freier, to a cabinet meeting. What else is new?
The latest version of the story goes easier on Dayan, saying he wanted to prepare the warheads not because he intended to use nuclear weapons but just to deter the armies of Egypt and Syria from continuing their advance.
In retrospect, Dayan's fears proved wrong. The Israel Defense Forces recovered and gave Israel a cautionary victory, ending the war 101 kilometers (63 miles) from Cairo. But from a psychological and propaganda points of view Israel was perceived as defeated, as opposed to the Egyptians, who celebrated their relative achievement with great fanfare.
Dayan's idea strongly reflected his personality, which was characterized by rapid fluctuations from shining optimism to despair and melancholy. In light of the IDF's failure to foresee the war and to prepare for it, Dayan found himself in a moment of crisis, allegedly raising a suggestion the likelihood of which is subject to debate. It is worth remembering that it is consistent with the suggestion attributed six years prior to his political partner, Shimon Peres.
According to those reports, while the nation waited in a state of melancholy for the outbreak of the Six-Day War, Peres suggested detonating a nuclear weapon deep underground. The goal would be to deter Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser from going to war, which he ultimately did by closing the Straits of Tiran and evicting U.N. observers from the Sinai. This episode ended with the Yitzhak Yaakov affair, when the former IDF brigadier-general was arrested in 2001 and tried for disclosing state secrets concerning Israel's alleged nuclear program.
All of the sources on the Dayan affair have a plausible motive for speaking out. Galili's associates wanted to damage Dayan's reputation, because they did not forgive the fact that in 1967 he kept Yigal Alon from becoming the defense minister and took his place. Zvi Zamir from the Mossad and Eli Zeira from Military Intelligence will appear together today at a Institute for National Security Studies conference following years of hostility between them after interviews they both gave me in 2004, in an affair that preceded the chaos of the exposure of alleged Egyptian Israeli spy Ashraf Marwan. Today, those who are still alive promote themselves via books, symposia, testimonies and depositions in a last-ditch effort to look good as a footnote in history.
All of this, of course, is understandable. Apart from the price: that once again a crack has sprouted in Israel's policy of ambiguity regarding the nuclear reactor in Dimona. This, in an era when Israel faced diplomatic pressure from Iran, Egypt and Russia in that regard. Every such revelation weakens the understanding that Golda Meir achieved with Henry Kissinger in 1969, to allow the Dimona reactor to remain in the shadows. The only consolation is that from today onward, things should calm down until the 50th anniversary of the war.