Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Yom Kippur War of 1973~Against All Odds

The Egyptians and Syrians never got over the Israeli victory in the 1967 war (June 5th to 10th, 1967). The Arab world hates to "lose face" and in typical fashion, refused any attempts at peace and instead devised a plan that (they thought) would allow them to beat (ie: eliminate) Israel. The plan was for Syria to invade from the north while Egypt hit from the south, thereby splitting the Israeli forces in half.

Worried about losing more territory, King Hussein of Jordan, secretly met with Israeli president with Golda Meir to warn her of the impending attack. Sadly, there were those in the Israeli defense community who refused to see the truth, regardless of the intelligence, and all warnings were ignored. Israel had Moshe Dyan to lead her forces, but he was no longer the warrior he once was, and demonstrated a lack of nerve and the will to make decisions. This was the man, after all, who handed back the keys to the Temple Mount to the Waqf! It was a true miracle that Israeli forces managed to overcome the enemy.

Some claim initial devastation was because Israel was still on a high after the victory of 1967 and some claim it was just poor judgement. For whatever reasons, Golda Meir refused to fortify the soldiers along the borders~she should have listened to the warnings. 

The day chosen for the attack was Yom Kippur~the Day of Atonement~a time when the entire country is shut down. The battle raged for three weeks (October 6 to 25, 1973). Seemingly, Israel was oblivious of the potential danger around them. Despite indications of military action on the part of Egypt, no defense preparations were made, which almost led to decimation. The odds were clearly against Israel in every respect with troops outnumbered by five to one, and in some areas eleven to one. Golda Meir said at the time:

This people small as it is, surrounded as it is by enemies, has decided to live. And if we have to pay the price for living, we have to pay it...

In the first attack, Egypt breached the Bar Lev Line and advanced eight miles~then stopped, because Sadat wanted to show that he could over run the Israelis. At the same time Syria attacked in the Golan. Armed with the latest in Russian military equipment the Egyptians seemed unstoppable in the beginning, and Israel suffered catastrophic losses.

For whatever reason, rather than holding the line, Sadat ordered a critical unit to cross deeper into Israeli territory and attack. It was a big mistake because it not only led his troops away from their defensive shield into the waiting Israeli fire, but even more crucially it left his east bank undefended.

After first refusing aid to Israel, the USA finally agreed to supply tanks and shells to the beleaguered Israeli forces so they could continue to fight. The Egyptian advance had halted and their rear line was open. Israel was now able to transfer forces north to Syria. Syria, and consequently Russia (Syria's backers) were not pleased as Israeli troops forged their way to Damascus.

When Israel was just outside Damascus, Sadat asked for cease fire negotiations.Then, as now, when negotiations began, the one thing Israel asked for was that the Arab world would acknowledge that Israel had a right to exist!

On 19 November 1977, Anwar Sadat  met with Menachen Begin in Jerusalem to negotiate a peace treaty. In September 1978 Sadat and Begin signed a peace treaty at Camp David in the USA. Israel, as always was willing to give up a lot and she did. This time it was the Sinai, a patch of land that was larger than Israel proper and more than that, it contained oil. For this reason, Sadat claimed victory for Egypt.

Israel never wanted war, and as always, demonstrated just that by giving up large swathes of land and resources in the hopes of living in peace with her Egyptian neighbours. What was Sadat's reward? His own people assassinated him on 06 October, 1981.

The Yom Kippur War of 1973

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