Applying lessons from the Yom Kippur War to today’s conflict with Iran

39 years to the Yom Kippur War – Oct 6, 1973

Yom Kippur War, 6 Oct 1973, resulted in a loss of more than 2297 lives

IDF chief in 2011 annual memorial service for Yom Kippur fallen Photo IDF Spokesperson Unit

There is an important lesson to be learned from the Yom Kippur War, a lesson that must be applied to the current conflict with Iran. While the US is an important ally of Israel, it is Israel’s prerogative, Israel’s duty to its citizens, to act on its own best interests, to make it own decisions. While the American approval is important, Israel must first and foremost make its own judgement call on how to defend itself and its citizens.This may sound obvious but this is not the way things played out during the Yom Kippur War.

Those of us who lived through the horror of Yom Kippur War will never forget it. For some, Yom Kippur is linked to bloody battles. For some Yom Kippur brings the memory of loved ones that died in the war. For all of us, Yom Kippur will forever be associated with the failure of the military to recognize the signs of upcoming war.
There were plenty of warning signs, but Israel military and various intelligence agencies, still basking in the afterglow of the Six Day War, grossly misinterpreted them. It was only in the early morning hours of Yom Kippur that a warning message from a Mossad agent finally woke up the Israeli military chiefs and government cabinet and alerted them to the upcoming war.
The minutes of the top secret Israeli cabinet meeting conducted that morning and released by Israel state archives in October 2010, reveal that six hours before the war broke out, Golda Meir, the Israeli prime minister, convened the cabinet for consultation. Dado, IDF chief of staff, advocated for a preemptive strike, saying a preemptive strike would give Israel “huge advantage and save many lives,” but Ms. Meir and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan rejected the idea: “It’s tempting, but world will portray us as the aggressors.”
And indeed, when Israel notified the American embassy about the impeding attack on Israel, the American’s main concern, according to Abraham Rabinovich, in his book “The Yom Kippur War” was that Israel would not take a preemptive strike. When Henry Kissinger, the US Secretary of State, was notified, he called the Israeli charge d’affairs in Washington and asked “Jerusalem to avoid any rash moves.”
Israel didn’t act rashly. Instead it waited for Syria and Egypt to strike first. In the first days of the war, Israel lost ground on both the Syrian and the Egyptian fronts and suffered bitter losses. Israel was on the verge of destruction. Israel’s Defense Minister, Moshe Dayan, the great Hero of the Six Days War told the IAF commander: “Unless we stop their tanks, this is the destruction of the third temple.
While Israel military managed to bounce back and end the war with a great military victory, the losses were staggering: 2700 Israelis lost their lives and 7000 were injured.
Let us not forget that the stakes are even higher that they were in the Yom Kippur war. A war with Iran will not take place in the Sinai peninsula far away from the Israeli center of population (Sinai was handed over to Egypt as part of the Camp David Accords) or even in the Golan Heights. Just a few days ago Tehran proudly displayed missiles capable of reaching Israel. They will not hesitate to send nuclear missiles to densely populated heart of Israel. As one of Iran’s most influential ruling cleric, Rafsanjani, pointed out, Israel is a one bomb country. One bomb will be sufficient to wipe it out.
Before the Yom Kippur War, Syria and Egypt attempted and succeeded to hide their intentions to engage Israel in War. Iran does no such thing. Iran top officials continuously declare their wish to annihilate Israel. “A new Middle East will definitely take shape, but with the grace of God and the help of the nations in this new Middle East, there will be no American or Zionist presence in it,” said Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on August 17, 2012.  On September 22, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s Chief Jafari said ‘War with Israel will eventually happen’. In the face of such open and explicit threats, nothing that Israel chooses to do can be considered rash.
Should Israel attack Iran? That’s Israel’s decision to make.  Israel must address the existential threat posed by Iran. How and when – it is up to Israel to decide.
Sources and Extra Reading:
1. The Yom Kippur war, Abraham Rabinovich, p90
2. The Eve of Destruction, Howard Blum, p190.
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3 thoughts on “Applying lessons from the Yom Kippur War to today’s conflict with Iran

  1. Pingback: Yom Kippur War מלחמת יום כיפור « Hebrew Daily Phrase

  2. Israel had two major failures: the most impotant failore was that the army was not ready for this war. secondly, the communication between the army and the Government was bad.

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