Lessons from the Yom Kippur War

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.


F081012MF07Forty years ago, Israel experienced the most devastating war in its modern history. Israel not only suffered its worst casualties during the Yom Kippur War, but actually came close to being destroyed with Defense Minister Moshe Dayan warning that “The Third Temple is falling.”

To understand the lessons of the Yom Kippur War, it is important to understand the three key elements that led to it. These are Muslim deceptiveness, American diplomatic pressure and Israeli complacency.

Egypt had lulled Israel into complacency by faking a crisis. Before the Yom Kippur War everyone “knew” that Egypt’s air force was defunct and that its military was no threat because of an arms dispute with the Soviet Union.

While there was a dispute, one of many, with the Arab powers demanding more and better weapons, the claims of weakness were a façade. During the Six-Day War, Israel had faced overwhelming odds. Now it seemed to be facing a weakened Egypt under a “moderate” leader whose ties with his Soviet allies appeared to be fraying.

Israel was warned to avoid any provocative responses to Egyptian military preparations or it would be considered the aggressor. A preemptive strike, the move that had won the Six Day War, was out of the question. Instead Israel could only react to overt aggression while letting an enemy force that was larger than it make its preparations for war and dictate the terms of battle.

Israel had beaten Egypt before. That meant that even though Egypt had twice as many soldiers and the combined Arab attack forces had nearly twice as many tanks, Israel was considered the stronger party. And just like today, it was expected to show restraint against a “weak” Muslim enemy.

That put Israel into a box that it has never managed to get out of. Since then, the Muslim side has learned to appear weaker to maintain freedom of action. Using terrorists as proxy armies under the cover of a phony Palestinian nationalism inflicted severe damage on Israel using a “weaker” enemy.

Before the Yom Kippur War, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had made it obvious that he wanted Israel to take a beating to score points with Muslim leaders.

In his book, King’s Counsel, Jack O’Connell, a close advisor to King Hussein of Jordan, describes Kissinger meeting with Egypt’s National Security Advisor and telling him that, “If you want us to intervene with Israel, you’ll have to create a crisis. We only deal in crisis management. You’ll have to ‘spill some blood.’”

Kissinger then tried to keep President Nixon out of the loop, delaying notifying him that the war had started and trying to keep him from returning to Washington. Nixon had told Kissinger from the start that he had to “squeeze the old woman” (Golda Meir) because “we can’t have a hundred million Arabs hating us.” But Kissinger was going far beyond anything Nixon wanted.

The arms shipment that helped stabilize the Israeli counterattack was delayed by Kissinger, but finally pushed through by Alexander Haig while Kissinger was still trying to calculate a “sweet spot” that would prevent Israel from either being destroyed or winning a major victory.

The goal was to beef up the self-esteem of Muslim countries which had lost wars to Israel while using the Jewish State as leverage to force them into a relationship with the United States.

On his fourth day in office, Kissinger told President Ford, “We couldn’t have done better if we had set the scenario.” “Even the heavy Israeli losses helped, didn’t they?” Ford replied.

Those same calculations are still going on today.

If diplomacy is the art of saying “Nice doggy”  until you find a rock, then Israel is the rock. The diplomats get it backward believing that the only reason the nice doggy is growling at them is because they have a rock in their hands. They want the doggy to behave nicely and watch the front yard. They don’t care about the interests of the rock.

Israel’s efforts to fight terrorism are deliberately undermined for diplomacy in the Muslim world. The Kissingerian thinking is that the more Israel is weakened, the more willing it will be to make concessions and the more concessions Israel makes, the more the Muslim world will accept American influence.

But the process has worked in reverse, with the weakening of Israel also weakening American influence.

The third factor is Israeli complacency. The Israeli Labor leaders had forgotten that the Six Day War had been a desperate gambit in a crisis and that it had succeeded because of the quality of the men in the field, not the leadership. Golda Meir was a long way from the humble Levi Eshkol and Moshe Dayan, like Rabin and Sharon and too many other Israeli generals, had come to believe his own press.

Israel had overcommitted itself to passive defenses, to the Bar Lev Line; the Iron Dome of the day. The Bar Lev Line was the embodiment of the opposite of the tactics that had won the Six Day War. It was not an action, but a reaction, a series of defensive fortifications arising in response to Egyptian shelling that grew until the reaction became the heart of Israel’s military strategy.

While Egypt plotted an invasion, Moshe Dayan extended tentative withdrawal offers and reports from the Bar Lev Line of Egyptian troop movements were dismissed as a misunderstood training exercise.

Israel’s leaders did not know what they wanted and Israeli soldiers paid the price.

Like any Israeli reactive strategy, the Bar Lev Line was doomed. Ariel Sharon had argued for a mobile approach and Haim Bar-Lev had tried to force Sharon out of the IDF.  Prime Minister Sharon however would embrace his own Bar Lev Line with the Separation Wall that like the Bar Lev Line provided a temporary illusion of security without the substance.

Israel today has achieved the illusion of security without the substance. The raid that captured Gilad Shalit and the shelling of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were warnings that the illusion of security can come apart at any minute when the enemy applies enough energy to finding a workaround; the way that the Egyptians did with the Bar Lev Line.

Despite their courage and innovativeness, Israelis easily become complacent assuming that whatever their government is doing must be working. That is something they share with Americans and Europeans who are shocked by each new terrorist attack.

Complacency in war is the path to defeat and the war has never ended.

The Israeli political and military establishment is too busy with its internal arguments to pay enough attention to what is going on outside its walls. There is no shortage of military and intelligence brass eager to provide the same empty assurances about the improbability of an Iranian attack that their predecessors provided about the improbability of an Egyptian attack in 1973.

Netanyahu is aware of the stakes, but is hamstrung by an American government still obsessed with appeasing Muslims to stabilize the Middle East and by an Israeli military and intelligence establishment that resembles the incestuous Old Boy Network in 1973, but is more heavily politicized because its members are even more eager to run for public office.

The ultimate lesson of the Yom Kippur War comes from Zvika Greengold who held out against the 51st Tank Brigade of the Syrian Army in only one tank.

“One thing that stayed with me after this war was the feeling of being alone,” he said later, “not in a room, but in a war, with one tank.”

That is Israel; fighting alone against impossible odds. It forgets that at its own peril.

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  • AdinaF

    In fact, it is even truer today, Israel stands alone. With the most hostile POTUS to disgrace the People’s House, bar none, Obama Inc. has ZERO intention of assisting Israel in its gravest hour.

    So, to glean a further glimpse into the perils facing Israel, the following is more than noteworthy. Terrifying too – ‘UPDATE: Nuclear Iran A Foregone Outcome: A Merging Of The Islamist-in-Chief’s Intentions & Iran’s Hitlerite Regime. The North Korean Model/Template.’

    Clear as a bell.

    Adina Kutnicki, Israel

    • Moa

      Obama and Hillary would not save their own *Ambassador* in Benghazi.

      * Even when they had a drone overhead.

      * Even when they had troops boarding aircraft in nearby Tripoli to assist (but were told to stand down twice).

      * Even when the “in extremis” force that trains for *excusively for this exact mission* was relatively close in Croatia and could probably arrive in time.

      Then they lied about it, threatened all the witnesses, and have been covering up ever since.

      Hell, Obama would not even kill *Osama bin Laden*. He refused to *three times*. The only reason bin Laden is dead is because the military started the raid and only then told Obama about it. Obama was so bored during the raid he played cards with a mate.

      http://frontpagemag.com/2012/matthew-vadum/valerie-jarretts-bin-laden-raid-veto/

      Then Obama lied that it was his “leadership” that killed bin Laden and used it to get re-elected.

      Then we have the leaks of Israeli classified material. Such as the leak about the US-Israeli Stuxnet virus traced to Hillary Clinton’s office (was Hillary’s closest aide Huma Abedin earning her foreign ‘consultancy’ money then?).

      Then the US leaked information about the Israeli drone base in Azerbaijan.

      No, the US will not stop Iran getting a nuclear weapon. Obama clearly wants them to have one. Then we will see what madmen do with such weapons. Probably invading Bahrain under the cover of a nuclear “umbrella” is first on the Iranian’s list. Just like Jimmy Carter’s insane ideology allowed the Iranian theocrats to come to power, we’re now seeing the same insane Leftist ideology in Obama that is allowing those theocratic supremacists to get nuclear weapons.

      The World has failed to keep the peace and keep Iranian from WMDs. Israel has been backed into a corner and has no choice anymore. The only question mark is when Israel will strike. It has to be before Russia can supply S-300s to Iran.

    • gerry

      He has disgraced the USA.

  • Shiv Prakash Joshi

    Israel alone capable of defending its territorial integrity as well as its people from any misadventures of enemey

  • objectivefactsmatter

    “That put Israel into a box that it has never managed to get out of. Since then, the Muslim side has learned to appear weaker to maintain freedom of action. Using terrorists as proxy armies under the cover of a phony Palestinian nationalism inflicted severe damage on Israel using a “weaker” enemy.”

    That’s why so much of their resources go in to militias. It’s all theatrics to deceive the majority of Westerners.

  • M.T. Aziz

    If not for their American puppets, the Zionist parasite state would have long ago been eradicated and the land restored to its rightful Muslim owners. But the day of reckoning is coming. Islam is spreading through the globe and truth and justice will prevail. By the Sword of Allah (swt), the Jews will be purged from our lands! Death to Israel! Death to the Crusaders! Death to those who profess to be Muslim but are not!

    • UCSPanther

      This is the same kind of arrogance that laid you right low in both the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur war.

      You are in no shape to try again, and if you are foolhardy enough to, your bones shall litter the desert…

    • Hank Rearden

      Yes, truth and justice WILL prevail, which should make a member of the Islam death cult and a worshiper of the moon god Baal quake!

    • dartson

      The Zionist “parasite state” produces more technological innovations than the entire Muslim world combined. Soon, when the West develops and improves alternative energy technologies that will replace the oil, you Sons of Allah will go back to riding camels in the Saudi deserts where you belong.

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      F U Aziz,

      May your prophet of satan, muhammed, BURN in H E L L for all time!

      INSHALLAH!

      Notice that 1,400 million Muslims can’t defeat 10 million Jews? Is that what you call a NAKBA?

      But don’t worry cowardly Aziz, 6,000 million NON-Muslims will send you back to your home along side satan and his prophet muhammed.

    • truebearing

      You Muslim fools wouldn’t recognize the truth if it was burned onto your foreheads and you all lived in a house of mirrors.

      Speaking of mirrors….I understand that sand turns to glass when subjected to the heat of a nuclear explosion. If you manage to survive the blast, you will be able to see your melted face wherever you look. Don’t fret about finding something to eat in a land covered by glass. The radiation will make you too sick to eat. Then you’ll die and have to work in h*ll shoveling pig manure…for eternity. That’s when you’ll figure out who “Allah” really is.

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      M T Aziz,

      (I’m guessing the “M” stands for Mohammed and the “T” stands for Terrorist),

      I’m taking a wild guess that you’re a Muslim.

      What percentage of Muslims believe as you do?

      Do a majority of Muslims believe as you do or are you in the minority?

      Are you a Sunni or Shiite or Salifi or Wahabbi or Cretin?

      I hope you answer my questions.

    • gawxxx

      good luck with that one bozo ! and the best thing that could happen to Israel is the extermination of “all” muslims ! , every last one of them !

      • therealpm

        That would be the best thing that could happen for the entire world, not just Israel.

    • Softly Bob

      You’re in for a surprise, my friend, an extremely nasty shock. You’ll wish you’d never written those words.The shame will haunt you.

      Israel is going nowhere. Islam is the Devil that will be destroyed!

    • Fred R.

      You have it backwards Aziz. Since 638 C.E., Muslims have been occupying Jewish land and were subjecting the minority Jewish population of Palestine to constant abuse.

      Fred

    • eib

      No wonder you’re hysterical.
      Your religion is profane.
      Your states and culture are corrupt.
      And without God, you have no future at all.

    • ServosT

      If Muslims took over Israel it would be a lifeless desert in about a year

      • quousque

        Palestinians, after Israel left Gaza, turned the most modern greenhouses into outhouses in less than a month.

        • ServosT

          yeah, they discovered that greenhouses can’t be strapped to the bodies of women and children and blown up, can’t be launched into Israel on a rocket, and can’t whine about the unfairness of their plight in the United Nations….therefore greenhouses are useless to the Palestinians.

      • iluvisrael

        They turned gaza into a cesspool in no time.

    • Bert

      I must admit that this Jihadist fanatic has the courage to openly reveal his evil intentions. Meanwhile most Jewish leaders cower and grovel and fear to tell the truth in their own behalf. This is how foolish Jews keep inviting attacks from the Muslims.

      • Mickey Oberman

        Hey Aziz (or would like to be) are you sure you have landed your magic carpet on the right planet?

    • Mickey Oberman

      Egypt is currently celebrating its “great victory” in the Yom Kippur war.

      It was nothing more than a humiliating route and a devastating defeat.
      They celebrate by killing dozens of each other.

      Most gratifying.

      May they celebrate many more such “victories” in the same manner.

      • defcon 4

        I seem to remember Egyptian radio and television lying in typical islam0nazi fashion, about how the Yom Kippur War was going right up to when the IDF crossed the Suez and cut the supply lines of most of Egypt’s army and the lies couldn’t cover up the truth anymore because the IDF could’ve marched on Cairo.

      • therealpm

        That was some victory. I seem to recall that at the ceasefire half the Egyptian army was completely surrounded and rapidly running out of supplies, and there was nothing to stop the Israelis taking Cairo had they chosen to.

        • Gee

          I was there thank you. Some of our advanced people took back the pyramids for non-payment.

          There were only 20,000 of us and not one single Arab between us and Cairo. The only reason we didn’t take it was who the heck wanted it?

          • defcon 4

            Israel should’ve bombed and shelled the Egyptian army into annihilation.

          • defcon 4

            LOL, “non-payment”. There would be a lot of interest generated on that debt by now, even if we only consider inflation.

    • Drakken

      You effing bloody savages really don’t know and understand what is going to happen to you do you? What is coming to you and yours will make the last Crusade look like a picnic in the park, the hue and cry will be, killem all and let allah sortem out, will be policy without remorse nor apology. God bless the Crusades, Deo Volente!

    • defcon 4

      BUt I thought islam was a religion of peace and tolerance?

    • herb benty

      Your fake religion is fighting the Judeo- Christian True God. You worship Satan and you think you’re on the right side. Islam’s days are ending soon.

      • knowshistory

        your true god is watching islam beat the pants off his own believers. I have to conclude that the true god either hates his believers, or is powerless to prevent the destruction of his believers. prattling about god works in mysterious ways, the usual reaction to personal tragedies allowed by that mysterious god isn’t going to wash when the entire body of the true gods believership is being genocided by believers in the false god. allah, on the other hand, who represents true evil, and encourages crime, sin, evil, duplicity, and vice in his believers, at least is on their side. allah may have a poisonous hatred for infidels, but at least he is 100% in favor of his believers (the male believers, anyway). just two questions, though. 1. why do all gods have such a craving for worship from us poor helpless humans? 2 . what would we call a human who’s one nonnegotiable requirement was that ants bow down and worship him? crazy?

        • herb benty

          Sonny, I must be allowed to chuckle, I take it you missed Sunday school. Our Judeo-Christian Faith is True, our God loves us and the Gospel means, Good News. Yes our Lord sends us out as sheep to an evil world. We do not fear those who can destroy the body, but fear of Him who can destroy both body and soul- that is the beginning of Wisdom. God is presently calling in those who love our Wonderful Creator, to be with Him for all Eternity. The piddly sufferings of this world will not even be remembered. Islam, Communism etc., only SEEMS to be winning. Read your Bible again, God will speak to you.

          • knowshistory

            answer the questions, hypocrite. why do gods always require worship? seems to me that worship is what keeps a god alive. when his worshipers die off, the god dies too. heard anything done by zeus lately? our wonderful god is committing suicide by helping allah kill off all his worshipers.

          • herb benty

            We worship our Father in Heaven who made us and the universe. He loves us, Sent His SON to pay for our sins, suffered on the cross for us, death could not hold Him. He rose from the grave for us, ascended into Heaven to prepare a place for us who believe, where we will be with Him for Eternity. Yes, old boy, I worship Him because as you can see, mankind cannot rule himself. Our God is the only God who walked into the Temple built for Him. Malachi3:1….and he(John the Baptist) will prepare the waybefore ME, and the LORD(Almighty God) who you seek , will suddenly come to His temple….says the Lord of Hosts. ..You see the superiority of Christianity, We worship the Living God . Keep searching.

    • Gee

      If it wasn’t for the United States – Israel would have all the oil fields and you ragheads would be chasing goats

      • defcon 4

        Do you think the peace treaty w/Egypt was worth the price of giving up the Sinai again?

        • Gee

          No

    • ServosT

      This is a mind of an Islamic person. Addled and vicious.

    • Wtf?

      Hey Aziz
      I heard a story about your brother.
      What do you call a handsome Arab?
      “Asif”

    • 1Indioviejo1

      Death to Islam, death to Muslims and everybody else, are you happy?

    • FJSC

      All the evidence suggests that Allah hates muslims

  • truebearing

    Israel won’t be the only nation hurting after the next war. The exigencies of survival will force Israel to take extreme measures which will set off a cascading domino effect. Mankind will pay a heavy price for turning a blind eye to the growing malevolence of Islam, and the evil emanating out of the UN and Washington.

    • PhillipGaley

      “malevolence”? How could that be? They told me that, Islam was a religion, . . .

      • knowshistory

        when the government, the media, academia, and the “leaders” of both parties all agree on something, is there any possibility that they are not all wrong?

        • PhillipGaley

          “wrong”?

          How could they be, . . . I mean, they are elected by the people, and they’ve spent their lives serving the people, . . . but on second thought, in one place in Scripture it says that, the nations of the earth are in His hand, and He sets the basest of men over them, . . . so, . . . I suppose, politicians and various leaders could be wrong, . . . and maybe even slime-balls, all.

  • Chezwick

    Israeli complacency extended to the cardinal sin of disregarding an unprecedented build-up of enemy forces….based upon…

    1) the disinformation of an Egyptian spy known as ‘the In-law’, who had given the Israelis reams of internal documents of the Egyptian government for a number of years but who was in fact a double-agent

    2) the arrogance of over-confidence and the mistaken belief that the Arabs would never challenge Israel based on the superiority of her air force

    One Israeli military intelligence official, Lt. Col. Shabtai Brille, connected all the dots and tried to warn his superiors that an attack was imminent. But he was threatened with dismissal by his superiors for going against the official line. After the war, he became a cynic and a recluse.

  • Allah is Dead

    no more land for peace

    • defcon 4

      “land for peace” a hypocritically mendacious concept, that only fools the brain dead.

  • Brand

    This is also of interest:

    “The “Convert or Die” Campaign in 1895-96 in Afghanistan against the Polytheists of Kafiristan”

    http://www.antisharia.com/2012/04/10/the-convert-or-die-campaign-in-1895-96-in-afghanistan-against-the-polytheists-of-kafiristan/

  • muchiboy

    Such an eventuality would be inconceivable if Israel did the morally correct and courageous act and embraced the Palestinian People as true and equal citizens in a shared land.Your fears stem from the unconscionable actions of a Zionist dream that resulted in the displacement and de facto ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian majority.

  • Bert

    Part of the problem is the Israeli leadership which is secular and materialistic. They can only calculate in terms of what is visible on the surface. You will NEVER hear the prime minister or most other leaders say that they have personal faith in G-d. These leaders are so spiritually weak that they fear to even say the obvious truth in their own behalf. They fear to say that the land belongs to them even though it is theirs by international law based on the Palestine Mandate of the League of Nations following WWI. They are also terrified to ever point out that Western leaders, including the U.S. Britain and France, have all dealt treacherously with Israel. In public they pretend that Obama is a friend when he betrays them at every turn.
    The basic theme in the bible is simple. Obey the Law and G-d will fight for you. Ignore the Law and you are on your own. Through most of Jewish history the Jewish leaders have ignored, and even trashed, the Law withe dire results. Little has changed.

  • Attila_the_hun

    Yom Kippur war should be a reminder to American Jews who hated Nixon and love Hussein O.
    If it weren’t for Nixon, Israel might not be existed today. And if it is up to Hussein O. he will let Israel be destroyed
    Sometime I wonder if American Jews, had ever learned anything from 2000 years of diaspora.

  • defcon 4

    Zvika Greengold, I read about him in Chaim Herzog’s book. He was in continuous combat for something like 24 hours on the southern front. And then the Syrians and allah discovered that the road to Damascus runs from Israel to Syria, as well as from Syria to Israel, until the Russian bastages began rattling their sabers.

  • defcon 4

    I believe the US provided Israel w/satellite recon later in the ’73′ war. Recon that assisted in the crossing of the Suez Canal.

    • Gee

      Nope – we knew about it from our Bedouin Scouts. Best darn scouts in desert bar none.

      We knew exactly where the weak points were and went into Africa without any problem

      • defcon 4

        Chaim Herzog was slightly senior to you, so he might have had access to US satellite recon that you didn’t.

        • Gee

          Yes – but we knew about before he did. I talked with them myself and knew we were going before anybody in Jerusalem did

          • defcon 4

            I hope Israel has her own satellites now. Because counting on the US federal government for anything except betrayal would seem a prudent decision.

          • defcon 4

            But did you know about what kind of reserves the Egyptian army had on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal?

  • Gee

    The real lesson – was Dayan was a frigging idiot that should never have be in charge of anything.

    When the intelligence said the Arabs would attack and when, Dayan dismissed the reports and said no it wouldn’t. After the war Dayan blamed the intelligence community.

    That was the real lesson to learn

    • defcon 4

      Weird considering Dayan lost his sight to Arabs.

      • Gee

        Not so weird – he was a lousy battalion commander that kept on getting promoted no matter how terrible he was

        • defcon 4

          But he did fight in the War of Independence, that’s gotta count for something right?

          • FJSC

            On which side?

  • knowshistory

    Israel is doomed. there are several questions which can only be answered in Israel’s destruction. 1. will the rest of the world learn anything when the canary (Israel) succumbs to poisonous fumes (islam)? 2. will the mechanism of Israel’s demise be the peaceful muslims that Israel allows to live and breed like rats in its midst, or will it be a military defeat, aided and abetted by treachery in Washington? 3. will Israel use the Samson option, and take down the muslim world in the nuclear holocaust that it richly deserves, or will the Israelis march meekly into the Islamic gas chambers? 4. if Israel does employ the Samson strategy, will it save a nuke or two for its make believe friends in Washington dc? this too would be richly deserved. 5. will the destruction of Israel and the genocide of the Israelis be in time to save Europe and north America from its muslim pandering folly, or will peaceful jihad (muslim immigration), so beloved by our “leaders”, have already weakened western populations to the point that the destruction of Israel is only useful to tell us of the fate that we have so willingly accepted?

  • kate5778b

    In a word, yes, but though badly wounded she’s the victor. All nations suffer in the next war.

  • zico zimpo

    I see a lot of funny Zionists here, listen funny guys, Yom Kippur war wasn’t only a defeat for Israel but it was the biggest defeat ever a victorious army can give for his enemy. and if you don’t believe young boys please ask your dads how they see this war, ask them how frequent they had night mares due to the horror they saw in this war. your dads still pee in their pants when they remember what they had faced in this war.

    what happened in this war is just a glimpse what you will face in the coming war and its sure coming sooner or later

  • Hard Little Machine

    When the next war comes use the entire staff of the US embassy as human shields.

  • mike

    We have leaders who have never learned the
    lessons they need to know. We have
    leaders who are ideologues and who, because of their ‘intellectual blinkers’,
    betray us. Sometimes folk expressions have merit… One of those is the someone “Is
    too smart for their own good”.

    Materially wealthy societies can be destroyed
    by groups and individuals who want their
    wealth. The Aztec, the Maya, the Inca, the Persians (twice – once by Alexander
    and a second by the Arab Muslims), the Sung Dynasty, the Hindu and Buddhist states
    of North India, the Celtic States of Gallia and Iberia, the Kievan State, all
    fell before militarized invaders. Wealth
    does not guarantee survival of individuals or cultures.

    One thing we should take from the article
    below, is that we cannot buy acceptance. The second is that Kissinger was an
    overrated egotist, and that Haig and Nixon, for all of their limits, were
    better men than he was.