Yom Kippur War Secrets Revealed

Published: October 9th 2010
in News » Israel

Israeli M50 Super Sherman tank crew during the Yom Kippur War.
Pic: wikimedia commons

Thirty seven years after the Yom Kippur war, the fiasco is revealed: The morning of the Yom Kippur War, just six hours before the dramatic outbreak of the deadly clashes, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir's cabinet is assembled for emergency consultation and meets with IDF chief of staff David Elazar, commonly known as 'Dado,' as well as IDF Intelligence chief at the time Eli Zeira. The minute after minute breakdown of the top secret meeting, released by the Israeli State Archives this week, reveals the depth of the calamity. The following is just the tip of the iceberg, summing up the division and disarray on eve of the Yom Kippur War.


The entire revealed protocols illuminate many other parts and aspects of that dreadful war.


Dado informs the ministers of a dramatic message relayed by Egyptian billionaire Ashraf Marwan, who spied for Israel, of the impending war. He continues saying that the message is authentic. However, Defence Minister Moshe Dayan still opposes a preemptive strike and a general call up of army reserves claiming, "They'll say we are the aggressors." The head of IDF Intelligence protrudes with his overconfidence, saying the enemy won't attack – "They know they will lose." As for Prime Minister Meir, she says, "As for a preemptive strike, the heart is tempted, but we'll see," sealing what could have been a counter measure that could have saved hundreds of lives.


In the meeting, which began at 8:05 a.m. on October 6, 1973, Dayan begins by discussing Israel's Arab minority and calls on the government to sustain a "liberal policy" towards it. He also suggests evacuating children from the Golan Heights. Meir, who probably didn't imagine Israel would be engaged with war by lunchtime, responds that the children should be evacuated gradually starting "now, and not on the eve of the operation." The IDF chief intervenes: "This is the eve of the operation."


Dayan continues, bringing up the growing relations between Jordan, Egypt and Syria, but he is against "warning the Jordanian king at this time." However, he adds, should Jordan activate its radars, Israel will promptly "take them out." Addressing Jordan as a possible third front is a vital mistake, implicating on war readiness in the other fronts.


The possibility of launching a preemptive strike is raised throughout the meeting, Dado (who was blamed in the aftermath) says such a strike would give Israel "a huge advantage and save many lives." He continues, "We can wipe out the entire Syrian air force at noon. We need another 30 hours to destroy the missiles. If they plan to attack at 5 p.m., the Air Force will operate freely against the Syrian army. This is what we are capable of." He adds, "From an operational standpoint I am very tempted. We don't have to decide now. We still have four hours for dialogue with the Americans. Perhaps by noon the Americans will tell us that an (Arab) attack is certain, and then we may be able to launch the preemptive strike."


Dado, we learn for the first time, basically yearns to strike.


On the contrary, Dayan explains why Israel should not launch a preemptive strike, as it did in the Six Day War. "We can't afford it this time. If the Egyptians attack, we'll be able to attacks the Syrians. Based on the information I have obtained, we cannot launch a preemptive strike. Not even five minutes beforehand. If we'll be in a situation whereby Egypt starts [the war], we'll be able to strike Syria as well. If they don’t open fire, we won't open fire," says Dayan, summing up the strategic map.


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