In April, 1973, the Egyptian army conducted maneuvers – military exercises. Dado, David Elazat, the commander-in-chief, decided to call up the reserves as he feared the maneuvers could lead to war. The reserves were called up, but in the end, nothing happened. The state of emergency cost Israel tens of millions of liras. Shortly before the Yom Kippur war broke out, the Egyptians again conducted maneuvers. This time, the reserves were not called up as Israel believed that once again, they were only military exercises.
The days before…
Ten days before war broke out, King Hussein of Jordan met secretly with Golda Meir, the Prime Minister. He warned her that war was about to break out. Six days before the war broke out, a trusted and reliable military intelligence source reported that the Egyptians would carry out a parachutists’ exercise in the Suez Canal and this exercise would turn into a war. Army Intelligence did not take the warnings seriously.
It was prisoner of its mistaken assessment that there is no chance of war. Two days before the war, the families of Russian diplomats left Syria. That was a serious hint, but the Intelligence community did not take that seriously either. One day before war broke out, a reliable source reported that at 6 o’clock the following evening was would break out.
On the eve of the Yom Kippur War, a special meeting of the government was held and it was decided there would not be a full call up of the reserves so that the world would not say that Israel initiated a war. A few hours before the war broke out, when the Arab armies were at full preparedness and it was clear that war was going to break out, the chief-of-staff, Dado, suggested that Israel launch a preemptive attack. However, Moshe Dayan, Minister of Defense, refused. Finally, at 14:00 on October 6. 1973, Yom Kippur, the Egyptian and Syrian armies opened a coordinated attack on Israel.
In the first days of the war, the Syrian and the Egyptian forces made gains. In the South, almost the entire Suez Canal fell to the Egyptians. The Israeli fortresses were cut off from each other and the Egyptians continued to move forward. In the North, the Hermon was captured by the Syrians and their tanks were on the Golan approaching Banot Ya’akov Bridge. Fierce battles to block the advancing armies were conducted. Only on the third day of battles did Israel begin its counterattack. The war ended three weeks later, with 2,569 killed in action, 440 missing-in-action (after a prisoner exchange, 57 were still listed as missing) and 7500 injured.
The results of the war
Despite the fact that Israel was at a great disadvantage at the start of the war, it succeeded in making a comeback and defeated the Arab armies of Syria and Egypt. Israel crossed the Syrian border and stopped 40 kilometers from Damascus. However, a very heavy price was paid.
The Egyptians believed that they had won the war. Israel and Egypt signed a disengagement agreement which stipulated that Israel withdraw 20 kilometers from the Suez Canal, leaving the Canal in the hands of Egypt. The Egyptians saw that as an achievement and a restoration of the honor that had been lost in the Six Day War.
In spite of Israel’s victory in the war, the mood in Israel was one of failure, resulting from the high number of soldiers who lost their lives or were injured, the shock from the Arab victories in the first days of the war, the prisoners-of-war and the accompanying feeling of shame and the feeling that there had been terrible failings – the reserves hadn’t been called up and the standing army had not been prepared for war. In contrast to the admiration for the leadership of the government and the military that existed after the Six Day War, after the Yom Kippur War, there was a a lack of faith in the country’s leadership.