Forty years after the Yom Kippur War, the Israel Defense Forces archive released a transcript and recording of six conversations that took place in the air force operations room at the start of the war.
The recordings feature the voices of then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, then-IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. David (Dado) Elazar, Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Benny Peled and Air Intelligence Group head Rafi Harlev during the critical moments when forces were relocated from the southern front to the north and the execution of the failed "Model 5" operation that aimed to destroy missile batteries along the Suez Canal. The recordings revealed a gloomy picture, as it was presented by Dayan who said that Israel was on the brink of "the destruction of the Third Temple."
The recordings begin some 15 hours after the fighting erupted, at 5 a.m. on October 7, 1973, as Elazar arrives in the operations room after the Air Force is ordered to divert its focus to the northern front rather than the southern front. "You," Elazar says on the tapes, "you have a good relationship with the Northern Command, don't you?" The answer is negative. "So coordinate with them. You have to help them. The situation there is not good."
The IDF chief of staff can be heard briefing the Air Force commander on the situation in the north, telling him about his conversation with GOC Northern Command Yitzhak (Hakeh) Hofi: "He was very pessimistic. … 'Listen, black tanks are being wasted.' Now I told him: 'Hakeh, the air force is going in there and wrapping things up.' So he said: 'That's okay, so are we.' [That raised] the morale eight levels, so as much as you can … In short, mates, we are now in the depths of the holding defense, and we are thirsty [for help]."
Later in the recording, Peled is heard ordering his people to transfer units to the north. "Guys, on the Rapid axis. Syrian tanks. We have no tanks facing them. The Rapid axis goes down into the Jordan Valley, and if we don't stop them, they will infiltrate the Jordan Valley … so now the minister is saying that only the air force can stop them. So I am asking, start moving forces over there. Stop the patrols over the fields in the north and in the south. Let's go, come on. Start moving everything to the Rapid axis."
"Defending the State of Israel"
The deliberations continued in the operations room over whether to execute the "Tagar" operation -- send jets out into Sinai -- or a "Model" operation in the Golan Heights. "A 'Model' operation could change the outcome, followed by a massive action. It could potentially crush the Syrian army," the IDF chief assesses on the recording.
"A 'Model' will take me four hours," Peled replies. "And it won't save the Golan Heights when the Syrians reach Ramat Magshimim."
After a short exchange between the two generals, it was ultimately decided to send out air force aircraft on what came to be known as the "Model 5" operation -- with the aim of destroying the Syrian army's missile launchers. "It is approved. Let's go," the air force commander pressed his officers.
The hours pass, the time is nearly 11 a.m. Dayan returns to the operations room to assess the situation. "Your plan to cover the Syrian missiles has not succeeded yet. The air force managed to salvage one critical axis, the Rapid axis. But ... the Syrians are pressing in other axes. The main force has retreated. Nafah is surrounded ... the Moroccans and Iraqis are infesting that area … there is a bottomless barrel there … half the outposts are surrounded. Nafah is surrounded … they are blocking all the axes."
In conclusion, he tries to motivate his officers. "This is defending the State of Israel. … This is what will save us."
Several hours later, the air force commander is heard saying, "In the opinion of the defense minister, who just got back from there [the southern front], the situation is that we are headed for the destruction of the Third Temple. Even if Arik [Ariel Sharon] and Gorodish [Shmuel Gonen] launch an attack tonight and fail … then there is nothing between the canal and Tel Aviv to stop them. I don't accept that. … Now I see that in order to alleviate the guys' pessimism, we have to destroy all the bridges over the canal. At all costs. Is that clear? This is critical. If I can announce that there are no bridges on the canal then that will cheer them up a little and they will be prepared for a counter-strike. So let's go. I want to destroy the bridges and it is not that difficult. It will cost us a few jets, but it must be done. You hear me? I am leaving you now. Get it done."