On the eve of the 45th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that Israel will never repeat the mistake it made in 1973.

“Forty-five years ago, our intelligence misjudged the war intentions of Egypt and Syria,” Netanyahu said, referring to intelligence assessments at the time that ruled out an Egyptian and Syrian attack.

“When their intentions were finally clarified beyond any doubt, and when the danger was already near, the political sphere committed a serious mistake by not approving a pre-emptive strike. We will never repeat that mistake,” he said.

According to the minutes of the cabinet meeting, six hours before the Yom Kippur war broke out in 1973, Prime Minister Golda Meir and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan opposed a pre-emptive strike even though at the time Israel had intelligence about an imminent Egyptian and Syrian attack.

Israeli Artillary. Yom Kippur 1973 (flickr)
Israeli Artillary. Yom Kippur 1973 (flickr)

Records published eight years ago indicate that then IDF Chief of Staff David “Dado” Elazar raised the idea of a pre-emptive strike and said that such an attack would provide Israel with a “great advantage and save many lives.

“We can wipe out the entire Syrian air force by noon,” he said. “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 can do.”

Meir said she was “tempted” to do so, but the decision could wait several hours until there is a dialogue with the Americans. Dayan strongly opposed a pre-emptive strike, even if it would only last “five minutes”.

 
Mks. Moshe Dayan and sheikh Abu Rabia during a break in a Kesset debate on the Interim Agreement. September 3rd,1975 (Wikimedia)
Mks. Moshe Dayan and sheikh Abu Rabia during a break in a Kesset debate on the Interim Agreement. September 3rd,1975 (Wikimedia)

Dayan also opposed calling the reserves, as Elazar suggested, saying it was important for the world not to blame Israel for starting the war.

“Israel is constantly working to prevent our enemies from arming themselves with advanced weapons,” Netanyahu said, referring to Israeli military actions to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria and the shipment of advanced weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

“The country’s red lines are clearer than ever, and its determination to apply them is stronger than ever,” he added.

Referring to the nearly 2,700 Israelis killed during the Yom Kippur War, Netanyahu said the country “must do everything possible to prevent the war: the victims of the war destroyed the lives of their families and are an open wound in the heart of the nation.”

But Netanyahu added: “If war is imposed on us, we must do everything to win it with minimal loss.

During the meeting, Netanyahu also addressed reports that the Israeli army is considering allowing terrorists to apply for reduced sentences.

“I strongly oppose that,” he said. “I know that this is also the position of the defense minister, and so it is not going to happen.