Friday, September 13, 2013

The Yom Kippur War

This evening starts Yom Kippur, that unique day of atonement that is the cornerstone of western religions. In commemmoration of the 40th ann iversary of the Yom Kippur War of 1973, the Jerusalem Post Magazine is running a series of articles by Abraham Rabinovich, a former reporter who has written what is considered the authoritative version "The Yom Kippur War" (Schocken, 2004). In the first article (J. Post Mag. Sept. 4), entitled "Facing apocalypse," he writes, "After 40 years, the Yom Kippur War remains the most traumatic event in the country's would be years before Israelis were able to recognize the achievements of the battered army on the battlefield of 1973 as far greater than the trumpeted victory of 1967." ( ). Many are not aware of this fact and that it was the arrogance of a small number of generals that almost spelled doom for Israel.

The signs of a potential joint attack by Egypt under Anwar Sadat and Syria under Hafez Assad were glaring, extensive and even obvious. Not only did Israelis see the preparations, tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks gathering across the Suez Canal and on the Golan Heights and intercepted messages, but Israel was specifically warned by several sources. One was the spy Ashraf Marwan, Nasser's son-in-law, and another was King Hussein himself, who helicoptered into Israel 11 days before the war started to specifically warn PM Golda Meir. However, all these signs were ignored by military intelligence chief Maj-Gen Eli Zeira, who, based on the performance of the Arab armies in 1967 (only 6 years before) had totally ruled out any possible attack. His opposition to any significant preparations for war by the Israeli political and military echelons was mainly responsible for the deaths of thousands of Israeli soldiers and the near defeat of the Israeli forces.

Other Generals were also at fault for not responding to the reality of the situation. For example, intelligence told them that the Egyptians had thousands of new Sagger long-range anti-tank missiles, but they didn't bother to inform the tank corps of this significant fact. For example, the air force was not aware of the capability of the Russian SAM missiles that lined the Suez canal and had no effective means to counter them and this led to the loss of over 100 planes and pilots. The Generals, still fighting the previous war, believed that tanks alone and air force alone could win any war, and neglected to include the infantry and other armed units in their battle plans. It was the raw courage of the soldiers themselves and the Israeli capability to improvise under fire that eventually led to Israel's stunning victory.

The rest is history, the tanks corps used sand to create dust that defeated the Saggers, the pilots developed tactics to avoid the SAMs, the Egyptian Army sensing their early victory forged ahead beyond the safety of the SAMs and were slaughtered and Gen Ariel Sharon brought his troops across the Suez Canal. In the end the IDF, being only 100 km from Cairo and within artillery range of Damascus, convinced the Arab elites to give up their dreams of destroying the Jewish State. This victory led directly to Anwar Sadat signing the peace treaty with Israel in 1979. Yet, even today, every Yom Kippur, and on all other occasions, the Israeli state and its defence forces must be ready for any surprise or sneak attack. It was this defeat that eventually contributed to the uprisings of the so-called Arab Spring, because no society can ignore forever the true signs of its own decadence.


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