Ya’alon’s lesson from Yom Kippur War: Be aware of enemies’ intentions

Speaking at annual Yom Kippur War memorial in Jerusalem, defense minister warns of threats from far and near; Rivlin says war's failures taught Israel that leaders must be questioned constantly.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon at Yom Kippur memorial at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl‏ (photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI / DEFENSE MINISTRY)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon at Yom Kippur memorial at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl‏
Over 40 years after the Yom Kippur War, its lessons are applicable every day and every hour, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Sunday at a memorial ceremony for soldiers killed in the war at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem.
Ya’alon, President Reuven Rivlin and other senior officials discussed the aftermath of the 1973 war at memorial ceremonies around the country.
“Forty-one years later and the warning siren that changed the State of Israel’s history still echoes in all of our memories,” Ya’alon said. “The Yom Kippur War was a breaking point for many Israeli citizens and for a whole generation that put its trust in the country’s leadership and remained with deep scares and difficult questions that haunt them to this day.”
Ya’alon said that, for his generation, the Yom Kippur War was a warning bell and that they still fear that Israel could be destroyed by its enemies.
The defense minister warned that the Middle East is constantly changing and must be constantly examined.
“It is our responsibility as leaders to open our arms to peace, but not to delude ourselves about our enemies’ intentions,” he said.
Ya’alon added that “from near and far, organizations, countries and entities are trying to harm us in different ways – with rockets and missiles, terrorism and delegitimization and attempts to develop nuclear weapons. We must know how to fight back in every place and every arena, military and diplomatic, if, God forbid, we have to.”
The country’s leaders must bring Israel to safety by acting responsibly and wisely and remember that the citizens of Israel sent them to act for the good of the country, Ya’alon said.
“The Yom Kippur War was a lesson that we should learn every day and every hour, to understand that every one of us could make a mistake in understanding reality. Therefore, it is our responsibility to make sure arrogance, complacency and intellectual tyranny do not take over, to allow a fertile and open discussion, to express doubts and ask ourselves what changed every morning,” he added.
Rivlin said that 41 years later, no one wanted to attribute blame for the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War, but rather to learn the lesson from it, which was that the watchdogs of democracy were too well-sated and did not bark in the night.
The Israeli leadership must be constantly exposed to searing questions all the time, and not wait for a war or a military operation, said Rivlin.
It is the obligation of the public to ask questions of the leaders of the state, he said, difficult questions, questions that are not comfortable.
The leaders must not be allowed to rest on the laurels of their concepts, he added.
With all the pain and trauma that was brought about by the war, Rivlin reminded the Israeli public that as an outcome of the Yom Kippur War, only three years later, in 1977, Israel warmly embraced the person who stood at the head of the Egyptian Army. Only three years later, Israel was already prepared to pay the price for peace, said Rivlin.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) said that the most important lesson of the Yom Kippur War is that the leadership must examine Israel’s situation every day and not be trapped in a specific attitude.
“Today we all know that in the years before the Yom Kippur War the Israeli leadership was not open to the signals that Egypt wanted peace,” he said.
“We don’t want to find out in another 40 years that the next war could have been avoided, that we could have saved the lives of our sons and daughters.
“If there is a chance, as small as possible, to accelerate the peace process and work toward an arrangement, the government must do everything to make it happen,” Herzog added.
According to Herzog, peace and security are not contradictory, the opposite is true. He pointed to peace with Egypt proving that peace is the only way to bring security.
“There is not one person in Israel who would give up one day of that peace,” he said.
Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.