The Yom Kippur War is still an open wound

It’s true that unfortunately, Israel has been forced to fight in a number of wars since the autumn of 1973, yet not one of them has endangered the existence of the State of Israel like the Yom Kippur War did, and neither has any other war remained so deeply ingrained in the national consciousness.

September 20, 2018 00:08
RETIRED GENERAL Amnon Reshef with the late Ariel Sharon during the Yom Kippur War.

RETIRED GENERAL Amnon Reshef with the late Ariel Sharon during the Yom Kippur War.. (photo credit: RAMI BAR ILAN/IDF ARCHIVES)


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Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. For the State of Israel in the modern era, however, this date will always be closely linked with the Yom Kippur War, which took place 45 years ago.

A few days ago, Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick, who has been serving as the IDF ombudsman for the last ten years, demanded that a commission of inquiry be established to investigate the IDF’s preparedness for war. Brick, a decorated combat soldier from the IDF Armored Corps, has touched upon one of the most sensitive nerves in the history of the State of Israel: the question of our country’s preparedness.

For myself, as well as for others who were already born at the time, the Yom Kippur War is still an open wound. The commissions of inquiry that were established following the war and the number of years that have passed since have done nothing to ease the national trauma that has ensued following the war. It’s true that unfortunately, Israel has been forced to fight in a number of wars since the autumn of 1973, yet not one of them has endangered the existence of the State of Israel like the Yom Kippur War did, and neither has any other war remained so deeply ingrained in the national consciousness.

In October 1973, Israel was caught off guard due to an overabundance of arrogance and self-confidence. The country’s leaders were drunk with power and indifference, which led everyone to the strategic surprise. At the time, the State of Israel and the IDF believed that no power could defeat us, and that Israel’s victory in the Six Day War had completely erased all outside threats. Despite the fact that recently wars of attrition have broken out in both northern and southern Israel, and Palestinian terrorism is spreading, the State of Israel is still absolutely confident that it is invincible and no other country can harm it.

The reports submitted by Gen. Brick, which somehow found their way to the media, revealed that a series of management failures and outright neglect of the IDF’s weapons systems have taken place. As a result, Brick concluded that the IDF is currently in no way capable of fighting a war on two fronts simultaneously and therefore is not prepared for war.

The IDF chief of staff and the general staff headquarters were apparently not aware of the existence of these reports, and certainly not of Brick’s conclusions. Brick was not satisfied with just submitting his findings to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, but insisted on taking action in the public and media spheres as well, since in his opinion, the only way to affect any change and motivate decision-makers was by engaging the public.

Apparently, the chief of staff rejected Brick’s conclusions at the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, and even sent a special letter to all the members of Cabinet saying as much. It’s possible that the dispute is based on the essence of threat to Israel.
The nature of war has changed: No longer will large-scale wars break out in our region. The main threat to Israel now comes mainly from terrorism delivered by Hezbollah and Hamas. This is not an existential threat to Israel, however. The forms of technology that are currently being used on the battlefield bear almost no resemblance to what existed in 1973. The enemy, the battlefield, the nature of fighting and the weapons have all changed so drastically. The chief of staff is certain that he is leading an Israeli military of the 21st century, but perhaps Brick is stuck in the old style of war.

Among other things, the new war is characterized by a battle of consciousness, in which each side tries to influence the consciousness of the other side and thereby achieve popularity among the public. Strangely enough, the power struggle between the chief of staff and the IDF ombudsman is also a battle of consciousness, in which both sides aim to gain the upper hand in public opinion.

After all, the chief of staff knows that the IDF has undergone profound changes to stay strong in the modern era. So the question remains, will the chief of staff succeed in instilling the people with the feeling that he is someone they can rely on.

But the key question is, does the public believe that the IDF is in control? If not, parents will stop encouraging their children – our finest young people – to volunteer for the best units. The moment the Israeli people stop believing in the might of its military, society will cease backing the army and will begin questioning why the IDF requires such a huge budget.

This trust is consistently solid, including at the present time, and yet Brick has managed to add a measure of insecurity in the public’s minds. These question marks require a response, and must certainly not be disregarded as inconsequential. 

As we gathered together with friends and family on the eve of Yom Kippur, many of us were reminded of our comrades who lost their lives in battle 45 years ago. So many times over the years I’ve asked myself whether they died in vain. It’s true that we never could have achieved peace with Egypt, but that’s not a real answer, since I believe we could have reached an agreement as a result of diplomacy. The question is, 45 years later, taking into consideration all of the strategic and geo-political changes that have taken place in the region, is the IDF prepared for war, which we hope will not happen.

I would love to hear a more comprehensive and secure reply than what has been offered so far. I am still of the opinion that Israel’s top decision makers – including the prime minister and the defense minister – must stand in front of the Israeli public at this precise moment in time, to be recorded in the annals of history, and state with confidence and certainty that the Israel Defense Forces is prepared for battle, and that the State of Israel is ready for any military and security challenge we might face.

It is their responsibility and their obligation to the public to make this proclamation in light of Yom Kippur.

The author is an MK from the Zionist Camp, a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and chairman of the Lobby for Strengthening the Jewish People and US-Israeli relations.

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