‘Danger War Would Break Out Less Than Likely’

Recording of Israeli Army's General Staff Meeting on Eve of Yom Kippur War Released

The Israeli military's archive releases on eve of 45th anniversary of Yom Kippur war a discussion that was held on October 5, 1973 in which the head of the IDF's intelligence branch can be heard saying that the chance war would break out was 'lower than low'

Israeli army's General Staff holding a meeting during the 1973 Yom Kippur war.
Miki Astel/ Bamachane

On the eve of the 45th anniversary of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, according to the Hebrew calendar, the Israeli army archives released the minutes on Monday of a meeting of the army General Staff on October 5, 1973, a day before the surprise attack on Israel by Egyptian and Syrian forces.

The meeting opened with remarks by the head of the Intelligence Corps, Maj. Gen. Eli Zeira, who reported on unusual developments on the Syrian and Egyptian fronts, but concluded his report by saying: "None of these things change the basic assessment of the Intelligence Corps that the probability of war initiated by Egypt and Syria is still very low." The chance that war would break out, Zeira asserted, was "low, and even lower than low."

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Many details of the meeting had been known before Sunday's release of the minutes, but it is only now that that complete minutes of the meeting have made public.

In response to Zeira's assessment, army Chief of Staff David Elazar remarked that he thought "the danger that war would break out was less likely that that it would not break out." Elazar wrapped up his comments by saying: "I don’t think they are about to start a war. … If I were a commentator … I would say that I don’t think it will happen." But he added: "Since we don’t only engage in commentary but are responsible for [dealing with] the situation, we need to take the necessary military steps."

>> Read more: Declassified: Mossad Wanted to Publish Intel From Top Spy to Prevent Yom Kippur War

Maj. Gen. Eli Zeira at the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, in 2013.
Yehonatan Sabban

Elazar also expressed concern that in the event that war did break out on short notice, or without any notice whatsoever, troops would need to be called up immediately. "From that standpoint, we face a limitation of sorts, because on Yom Kippur, there is no radio," the chief of staff said.

Elazar was referring to the fact that radio (and domestic television) broadcasts go off the air on the Jewish Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

He proposed a creative solution to the problem, suggesting that every Israeli household could be called and told to tune to an Army Radio frequency, where call-up codes would be broadcast.

"We will be prepared for every situation," Elazar vowed. "As is known, we have no interest in war, and would very much not have wanted that it happen to us as a complete surprise. It won't be a complete surprise … but if we have a warning and know that it is going to happen 24 hours later, and we manage to organize ourselves a little, then I am sure that we will do it very well, and I hope that we achieve all of the [goals of our] future plans for the future .… "

He closed the meeting with the traditional Yom Kippur greeting, "Hatima tova," may you be inscribed in the Book of Life.