The fascinating Yom Kippur War documents released here this past week include more than a hint that Golda’s real mistake was not arrogant disregard of Egyptian peace aspirations, but rather, exaggerated reliance on American promises.
In one of the documents, Dayan explains that because of Egypt’s anti-aircraft missiles it is impossible to offer Air Force assistance to the outposts under attack on the frontlines. He notes bitterly that the Egyptians and Russians had “three years to prepare.” He clearly refers to the period between the ceasefire forced upon us in the summer of 1970 and the outbreak of the war in 1973.
A necessary reminder: Three years before the Egyptians crossed the Suez Canal, the Americans formulated an Israeli-Egyptian agreement to end the War of Attrition. Golda was fearful, yet was unable to withstand the heavy pressures from Washington and the domestic hue and cry. The Left accused her of responsibility for the deaths of our soldiers on the Canal.
Menachem Begin warned at the Knesset that the Egyptians will exploit the ceasefire in order to prepare for war, yet Uri Avnery accused him of fanning the flames of panic.
Even before the sun rose the day after the ceasefire took effect, the Egyptians rushed to violate the agreement and positioned anti-aircraft missiles on the banks of the Suez Canal. Our Air Force, which up until that point made sure to methodically bomb any new Egyptian battery in the area, was forced to make do with photographing the missiles this time.
Resist Obama promises
Thanks to our national archives, I once reviewed secret protocols from those days and discovered major distress. Golda complained that the Americans were pointing a gun to her head, in these words, and are forbidding her from attacking the missile batteries.
In one of the protocols, Golda predicts with great clarity the future outcome of that restraint. She said that when the Egyptians shall attack us one of these days under cover of the missiles, “woe will be us.” One of our top diplomats in Washington at the time, Shlomo Argov, warned in a secret letter that “a humiliating capitulation to American dictates would mean destruction later on.”
Yet nevertheless, Golda capitulated. President Nixon promised to compensate her with advanced weapons systems and security guarantees.
These are more or less the same promises pledged by President Obama to Prime Minister Netanyahu in exchange for all sorts of deals with the Palestinians, construction moratoriums in Judea and Samaria, and possibly a withdrawal from the Golan Heights too. If we are foolish enough to agree, the Arabs may surprise us again, yet this time it will happen five minutes from central Israel.