'If we call up reservists, the world will say we attacked'

Newly released protocols from mere hours before the Yom Kippur War broke out show Israel's hesitation to strike pre-emptively Egypt, Syria.

yom kippur war 298 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
yom kippur war 298 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Nearly four decades after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, protocols from a top secret emergency cabinet meeting were released on Monday. Responses on Tuesday and Wednesday reveal that the wounds of the war are still deep, although the documents reveal little that the public did not already know about the war.
Protocols from a meeting only six hours before the Yom Kippur War broke out show that the government discussed launching a pre-emptive strike on the Arab countries, and debated whether or not to call in reservists before Egypt or Syria attacks.
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"A pre-emptive attack is a huge advantage," IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. David Elazar said. "It will save a lot of lives. If we get into a war where the first stage is to block - and I am sure that we can do this - then after the attack, there will be a serious war." He added that he would be able to destroy the entire Syrian air force at noon of that day, and get rid of their missiles within 30 hours.
Elazar gave then-prime minister Golda Meir, defense minister Moshe Dayan, and head of intelligence Maj.-Gen. Eli Zaira four hours to talk to the US and make a decision.
Dayan, however, spoke out against Elazar's plan. "We can not allow ourselves to attack pre-emptively this time. If Egypt attacks, we can attack Syria. According to what I know, there can't be a pre-emptive strike. Not even five minutes before. Impossible."
Elazar also said that the IDF should call in some of its reserve soldiers. "If they attack in 10 hours, we are as ready as possible with regular soldiers, but we did not call up any reserves at all. The IDF's power is 25 percent regular and 75% reserves. Therefore, we need to increase our power immediately. We need at least 24 hours to call up reserves - those that are called up now, can be put into action tomorrow."
Dayan, however, said that he thinks "Israel will be packed and the streets will be full, etc. I believe that we can call up the reservists tomorrow. This isn't like 1967 - the war will start in the Suez and the Golan. It's important that [the world] doesn't say we started."
"Calling up all reservists before even one bullet was shot - everyone will say we were the attackers," Dayan explained.
The failure to call up reserves is often cited as one of the IDF's major mistakes in the Yom Kippur War.
Earlier this week, the Israel State Archives released a small taste of the transcripts. On Wednesday morning, the ISA published on its website military-political consultations from the first four days of the war that had been declassified.
Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report.