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A Reversal of Fortune

IDF tank crosses Suez Canal during Yom Kippur War (Photo: Ron Ilan/GPO)

So many of the times when Israel's very existence has been threatened, God's miraculous hand of protection has saved her from destruction. There is no better evidence of God's love for Israel and her people than this excerpt in The Times of Israel of a book by Abraham Rabinovich that tells how the IDF crossed the Suez Canal and turned the Yom Kippur War — and Israel's fate — around:

Defeating Egypt was no longer a near-term option. This was a painful admission for the commander of an army which until a few days before had been considered unbeatable by any combination of armies in the Middle East—an assumption he himself heartily shared. It was to Elazar’s credit that he was not reduced to denial or paralysis by this startling turn of events.

The chief of staff was convinced that Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat would not accept a cease-fire unless shaken by a dramatic military development. Elazar was not sure that even a crossing would do it. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan in fact argued that the Egyptians would never agree to a cease-fire if Israel gained a foothold on the canal’s west bank, with Cairo no longer protected by the waterway. Even if the IDF did cross the canal and achieve a cease-fire, he said, the situation could quickly deteriorate into a war of attrition. In that event, the IDF would find itself holding a thin line on both sides of the canal against a far more numerous enemy.

This, in fact, was Elazar’s worst fear. “I would be happy, and you don’t know how happy,” he said to his officers, “if you have any better ideas.” They didn’t.

If a crossing, then, where? Two formidable armored divisions remained on the west side of the canal plus a mechanized division and other forces. Together they fielded twice as many tanks as Israel could send across. Until now, the tanks that the IDF had confronted in Sinai were of far less concern than the Sagger anti-tank missiles wielded by the Egyptian infantry. Confrontation with the armored divisions meant a major, World War II–type battle. This was precisely what the IDF wanted but not while crossing a major water barrier...

Tags: History , IDF

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