Dozens of newly opened documents from the state archives Wednesday morning highlight the depressed state of mind of Prime Minister Golda Meir during the opening days of the Yom Kippur War and the stress and confusion she felt regarding the progress of the battle.
On the second day of the war, October 7, 1973, Meir received pessimistic reports from the ground. “The situation isn’t good on either of the two fronts,” senior army officers told her.
Minutes from cabinet meetings and entries from Meir’s diary reveal that at that point, she demanded that an urgent message be sent to someone she referred to as “Naftali” – this was the U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger – begging him to send planes and tanks to Israel: “Tell him it’s S.O.S.,” she wrote.
Later that morning, Meir received harsh news. “Brigadier-General Lior reported by telephone to the Prime Minister on a worsening of the situation in the Golan and informed of the decision to evacuate the Golan communities … He informed the Prime Minister that the situation in the north was grave and that the Air Force had begun operations in the north in order to assist ground forces.” This too was revealed in the documentation.
Later that same day, Meir consulted with Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Finance Minister Pinchas Sapir. The Prime Minister seemed pessimistic regarding the likelihood of obtaining financial and military assistance from abroad. “We have very little help from other countries … In general, people don’t like Jews, and especially not weak Jews. They’ve thrown us to the dogs,” she told them.
In response to Meir’s inquiries regarding battle losses, the Defense Minister gave only vague replies and tried to evade giving clear numbers of those killed. When Meir insisted, asking if it was true that 250 soldiers had been killed, Dayan said, “Perhaps more. Only four returned from Mount Hermon. As to whether the others were captured or otherwise, I don’t know, but these aren’t small numbers. In the cabinet meeting this evening I will provide facts only,” he added.