Prime Minister Golda Meir expressed grave concerns to military officials in the early days of the 1973 Yom Kippur War about the potential lack of help from an international community she viewed as unsympathetic toward Jews, newly released documents show.
Documents released by Israel’s State Archives on Wednesday reveal just how high tensions were during meetings between Meir and military chiefs.
“The situation is unsympathetic on both fronts,” military officers told Meir during one such meeting on the morning of October 7, the second day of the war, according to the newly published transcripts.
To which she responded by requesting officials call the then-US secretary of state Henry Kissinger immediately and request rearmament: “Tell him SOS,” the documents read.
“The little help we have from the international community will disappear, they will throw us to the dogs. They don’t like Jews, let alone weak Jews,” she said.
On October 6, 1973, the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, the militaries of Syria and Egypt attacked military positions on the Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula, respectively, catching the relatively small number of Israeli troops stationed there off-guard.
The meeting between officials depicted in the new documents took place less than a day after the coordinated attack on Israel.
“They will attack. Move from one line to another and keep attacking,” Meir said, as the Arab armies continued to advance.
At 6:10 a.m. on October 7, the meeting began with bad news. Military officials had informed the prime minister of the worsening situation in the Golan Heights, that towns were being evacuated, and that the air force had begun to assist ground troops with bombings to push back advancing enemy forces.
Following a few days of dogged fighting, the IDF regained control of the Golan Heights, largely beating back the Syrian military and launching a counteroffensive into Syria. The battle with Egypt was far more difficult, with Cairo’s forces managing to penetrate deep into the Israeli-controlled Sinai Peninsula.
“We need to give them severe blows,” Meir repeatedly told the meeting’s participants.
The documents, published on the 48th anniversary of the war, span over nearly 1,300 pages and include notes from previously classified cabinet meetings and top-level security discussions.
They were released following a Supreme Court appeal by the Yom Kippur War Center, which welcomed the move.
“The reveal of this material is an important step in the process of exposing all relevant documentation on the war,” the center said.
Still, in some cases, words and sentences were redacted from the text, despite nearly half a century having passed since the conflict.
The center added that it hopes other institutions involved in the war, such as the air force and navy, will also release documents from the Yom Kippur War.
“This is in order to enable the general public and the soldiers of the war and their families, to understand clearly what really happened in the Yom Kippur War,” the center said.
The 1973 conflict marked one of the most significant intelligence failures in Israel’s history, with critical information failing to reach Meir and other decision-makers in time due apparently to haughtiness and hubris following the IDF’s resounding victory six years prior in the 1967 Six Day War.
In one of the newly released documents from October 19, then-defense minister Moshe Dayan realized the ongoing failures.
“The results should not have been as they were and we should have stopped them,” Dayan said. “We did not properly assess their combat capability,” he added.
Meir said in the same meeting that she believed it should be investigated.
The Israel Defense Forces was eventually able to repel the two invading militaries, but lost upwards of 2,500 soldiers in the process and thousands more were injured, as well as thousands of Egyptian and Syrian troops.
In the fallout of the war, Meir resigned as prime minister, as did Dayan as defense minister. Though Meir’s Labor party retained control of the government in the election immediately following the war, it lost in the subsequent election — for the first time in Israel’s history — to the right-wing Likud party, in part due to lingering disaffection over the conflict.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.