ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF
ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS
Address by PM Netanyahu Special Knesset Session Marking the 40th Anniversary of the Yom Kippur War
Source: PMO, 10-15-13
יום שלישי י”א חשון תשע”ד
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The Yom Kippur War was a time of trial for the State of Israel, which found itself in a fateful battle against those who sought its destruction. The blow that we suffered in the first few days necessitated the mobilizing of all forces in the war effort.
With talks about the “destruction of the Third Temple” in the background, the soldiers of the IDF demonstrated unparalleled bravery on both the southern and northern fronts. Those who forced us into a war we did not seek encountered national unity and the willpower of a determined nation. Within a few days, the IDF soldiers succeeded in turning the tables: we moved from defense to offence, and by the time the cease fire was announced, the IDF was already on its way to Cairo and Damascus.
Today, forty years after the attack that sent shockwaves throughout the country, we salute the heroic soldiers who rescued us from the traps of complacency, vanity and misconception.
The war left a painful wound in our souls and a deep scar in our flesh. The bottom line, however, is that we won a major victory. The lessons of that war have remained with us for the past four decades, and they are interwoven into the lessons we have accumulated from all the other wars and battles we fought.
The first lesson is to never underestimate the threats and never underestimate the enemy. Never ignore the warning signs. One cannot assume that our enemies will necessarily act in accordance with our assessments. They can be surprising and unpredictable. We paid the price of repression and self-deception, and we will never make that mistake again. Israel will always stand guard.
The second lesson is that the option of a preemptive strike cannot be automatically dismissed. Not every situation necessitates such a strike and all options must be weighed carefully, but there are times when the fear of an international response is diminished in comparison with the price we could pay for absorbing a strategic strike for which we will have to respond late, maybe too late.
A preemptive strike is one of the most difficult decisions a government is required to make, because it will never be able to show what would happen had it not taken action. At the same time, the major difference between the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War lies first and foremost in the fact that in the Six Day War we initiated a preemptive strike to extricate ourselves from the noose imposed on us by our enemies, while in the Yom Kippur War, despite the warning signs, the government chose to absorb the full force of the enemy’s attack.
The third lesson is the strategic importance of buffer zones. Our presence in the Golan and the Sinai enabled us to prevent infiltration deep into the territory of Israel. Following this experience, no one could comprehend forfeiting these buffer zones, even in peace arrangements. Therefore, it was clear that in the peace negotiations with Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula would have to be demilitarized. Such demilitarization, which has existed for almost 40 years, is essential. Without it, I doubt that the peace would hold. This demilitarization has been in place for almost 40 years, since the signing of the peace treaty with Egypt.
And there is a fourth lesson as well. Peace is achieved through strength. In the Yom Kippur War, despite the enemy’s excellent opening terms, our neighbors learned that they could not defeat us by force. This understanding is a result of the war. Five years later, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and the Prime Minister of Israel, Menachem Begin, signed a peace treaty. A peace agreement would later be reached with Jordan, and we are making genuine efforts to achieve peace with our Palestinian neighbors.
Peace can only be achieved if the hostile countries around us understand that Israel is powerful enough and that it will not disappear and will not be uprooted. The Yom Kippur War changed the face of Israeli society, necessitating a very painful and ongoing soul-searching. The failures, the debacles and the weaknesses entailed an in-depth and fundamental correction. This is an ongoing effort and we work on it constantly. It is first and foremost because of that war, but as I said earlier, in retrospect, Israel emerged stronger from the war.
Forty years ago there were less than three and a half million people living here. Today, we are more than eight million. Our economy expanded, and it is stable and prosperous. Just to clarify – our population has more than doubled, our economy is 25 times larger. It is as if you took the Israeli economy during the Yom Kippur War and placed 25 such economies side by side – this is the State of Israel today. Israel is a creative and advanced state, with a free and vibrant society, a society of remarkable achievements. And we continue to move forward and reach new heights. Our greatest achievement, however, was gained during the agony and despair of that terrible attack on Yom Kippur. Sporadic rumors about the falling of friends and acquaintances turned into a massive flow, and all forces needed to be mobilized to bear the terrible grief.
My brother Yoni participated in the battles on the Golan Heights. I wish to read you a portion of a letter he wrote to my parents, the first letter after the fights: “It was undoubtedly the most difficult war we have ever known. It was, at the very least, more intense and more terrifying, with more casualties, more successes and more failures than the battles and wars I have known. But it is because of the initial failures – failures in the military assessment, in the interpretation of the intelligence, in war doctrines, in political assessments and in the complacency of the entire nation – that the victory was so great. The army is strong and good and it has proven its abilities beyond any doubt. And when I say the army”, he wrote, “I mean not only the regular army, but the entire people. The soldiers succeeded, at a very heavy cost, to ward off the enemies, but it is the people who won the war”.
He was right, but the price we paid was unbearably high, the highest since the War of Independence. More than 2,100 of our finest sons fell in the Yom Kippur War, and thousands of others were injured. Some still bear the scars, some are with us here today.
Today, the 11th of Cheshvan, marks the passing of Rachel the Matriarch, the mother of the nation, who shares in the agony of her sons in their time of trouble. The Prophet’s promise to Rachel echoes in our ears: “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for there is reward for your accomplishment.”
We mourn the loss of our sons and our friends and we send our best wishes for recovery to the wounded. There is reward for their actions. Thanks to their courage and perseverance, our independence and the existence of our nation from generation to generation were secured. May their memory be blessed.