Perfidy?
Yom Kippur War veteran: 'The generals sold us out'

Yom Kippur War fighter tells of painful war experiences and discourse between generals he says reveaed secret plan that preceded war.

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Shimon Cohen & Mordechai Sones,

Moshe Dayan, Yom Kippur War
Moshe Dayan, Yom Kippur War
Reuters

A new, short but arresting book titled They Had Already Removed the Camouflage Nets tells the story of the painful events of the Yom Kippur War in the Golan Heights from the perspective of an IDF radioman who was exposed to unendurable sights and a disturbing conversation between IDF generals.

More than four decades later, Israel is still occupied with national soul searching regarding the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which ended in victory, but claimed 2,656 Israeli lives and left an enduring scar in the national psyche, coming only six years after the miraculous Six Day War. It is now known that then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger prevented Prime Minister Golda Meir from calling up the reserves although he knew the war would break out, that the Intelligence Services failed to warn of impending war and that Israel was perilously close to defeat in the first few days. It is also known that at that point Moshe Dayan wanted to prepare for the use of nuclear weapons, but Golda Meir disagreed and then the tide of the war turned. Meir and Dayan resigned after the war and the Agranat Committee of Inquiry was set up to investigate the unjustified complacency and lack of preparedness that led to the loss of so many lives.

Arutz Sheva spoke to the new book's author, Effi Cohen, a seasoned IDF fighter who has been silent for decades. He attributed the internal tremor that led him to write what he had kept secret for many years to a television program he viewed before Yom Kippur a decade ago. The program dealt with the personal situations of the battle's veterans, and some of them told their story. Cohen saw the documentary and burst into tears. When asked what happened, he told his children that he saw his own story unfold on the program.

Yom Kippur War memorial, Golan Heights, Israel
iStock

Cohen was moved to search the Internet for friends from those battles and found one of them. Two weeks later they met. Since then, he hasn't stopped telling his story. A year ago, the meetings developed into a decision to write the book, which vividly describes the scenes he witnessed during the battles, as well as what he heard senior military figures saying..

In a conversation Cohen witnessed as a wireless operator in the room where Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Hofi was meeting with General Benny Peled, the Air Force Commander, Peled described how there were no more IAF planes after 475 of them were shot down by enemy fire. Peled described how every Israeli plane that went airborne was downed in short order. Peled then made it clear that if the Americans did not quickly transfer the 400 embargoed planes that needed to be flown in from Portugal, there would be dire results because "the camouflage nets have already been removed from Israel's 'Doomsday Weapon'."

"Those two generals have since died, but another witness to the conversation is still alive - Kahalani - who heard one of the statements. They didn't notice that I was listening to them as I monitored the radio as a radio operator in Nafah a few hours before I was supposed to return to Tel Fares, which was occupied by the Sayeret Matkal commando unit."

As for how he's coped with the war since then, Cohen relates how the shock struck him from the first moment, but that he actually fell ill only three months later, and even then he did not know to link the war to his collapse. He preferred to see himself as a hero and not as an indecisive weakling, and thus periodically suffered breakdowns over the years and was treated with pills, not knowing that there were thousands of soldiers who, like him, were carrying within themselves the horrors of the war.

Destroyed position from Yom Kippur War, Mount Bental, Golan Heights, Israel
iStock

Later, after that television program, he asked for his due as a combat veteran suffering trauma, but discovered the doors shut to him. "The Defense Ministry rejected me on various pretexts, as if I wasn't at Tel Fares (in the Golan war theater, ed.)," he says, noting an incident in which he was tried for momentarily abandoning a position and the trial document proving that the outpost was already in Israeli hands. But this did not help him gain recognition as a war casualty. "Then they told me that I was as healthy as a bull, and then they said there was a statute of limitations. I finally won in court. They filed an appeal to the district where one cannot represent himself. A lawyer whom I hired did a good job but it was decided that I had to be examined by a doctor. He wrote that although I'd undergone an irreversible trauma, over the years I had overcome it. Whether or not I overcame it can be seen in the book."

"On October 11, 1973, a few minutes after 11 p.m., before I had to return to Tel Fares with my friend Shlomo Ya'akovian... I was in the war room in Nafah ... I was radio operator there, in the cubicle sat the operator who didn't hear the conversation between Major General Peled and Kahalani. They spoke explicitly about what happened to us and at a certain stage Peled revealed that all the planes had been knocked out and presented the stats. Kahalani asked if there were any pilots missing. Peled said no people, only planes."

Cohen continued: "Later on, the name Joe Alon was mentioned as someone who revealed a document in which Kissinger and Dayan allegedly signed an agreement that would give the Syrians and Egyptians a small victory that might take the lives of 200 to 300 Israeli soldiers, but that Arab national pride would be restored, after which they would agree to sign a peace agreement for thousands of years. Dayan thought it worthwhile, he felt that the cost was the worth it. This was the same Dayan who visited Tel Fares 11 days before the war and declared 'there will be war'."

Cohen adds that while in a "fixed" soccer game, those who rig it are put in jail, "in this case there were thousands who were sold out, when they thought they would sell out 300, and I am one of those few who were there. They just sold us. General Hofi was shocked and said he'd heard rumors, but Peled openly said that it had already been delivered. Hofi told us that Gorodish (the new and inexperienced commander of the southern front, later blamed for the initial failure and high casualties, ed.) was visiting the Northern Command and told him that there had been an organizational overhaul: There were no tanks on the ramps as per regulation, oil taps intended to ignite the canal in the case of an Egyptian crossing were not opened, and mines that were supposed to block the Egyptians had been blown up earlier. In other words, the Egyptians were given absolute autonomy to cross the canal and kill our soldiers so that they could reach the target of overrunning seven kilometers east of the [Suez] canal."

Woman at relative's grave at Har Herzl Cemetery
on 38th anniversary of Yom Kippur War Flash 90

He said that commanders also brought them to positions without them knowing how to use their weaponry. One example is when the commander of the outpost arrived at Tel Fares with three Vulcan 022 anti-aircraft guns, but in less than 15 minutes the weapons were rendered inoperative. "They stood in the wrong place. The shells fell in such a way that the guns were destroyed. A Syrian unit entered and slaughtered them. Twenty-three men were butchered with knives. These are things that people must be told. Leaders must draw conclusions and lessons so that this will never happen again. Our children must never be in a similar situation, not one that has even the slightest resemblance to that time."

Woman at relative's grave on 38th anniversary of Yom Kippur War
Flash 90



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