Sid Ahmed,





INT: ... And the reverse: what was your worst moment of the war?

A: The most difficult moment was on the 8th of the month, on which, contrary to the assessment of the situation the evening before, in which I got the command to try to cross the Canal, we did not yet have artillery or infantry, and we were under the enemy's artillery bombardment, and the only thing I could receive was air assistance, but I did not receive it, and I had to hang around in one spot. And then, part of my forces attacked in a failed attack towards the Canal. There was ... the command interfered in our radio frequencies, and there was great confusion, and I called the two brigade commanders [close] to me - I was very close up to them - I called up the two brigade commanders, and while they were having a kind of briefing on the battlefield, we were told that the enemy had begun an attack from the direction of the Canal towards us. I stopped the briefing immediately; I sent them back. And Egyptian tanks attacked, and I could not believe how we held out in the end - it was a terrible moment.

INT: I just want to ask you one thing again, which...

(Crashing noise. Apologies. Cut.)

(A bit of preliminary talk)

INT: So can you just tell me again: how prepared was Israel for the war? Was it a surprise? How did you feel?

A: In general, Israel was very well prepared for the war, because we had built up a force, we had developed equipment for crossing the Canal, we were well trained, we reorganized in armored divisions on the ground forces...

(Whispering. Cut.)

INT: ... The war, was it a surprise?

A: Basically, we were well prepared. We were reinforced, we were a strong, well-trained army, with excellent soldiers and excellent commanders. And you could think that... for example, when the Americans were surprised at Pearl Harbor, it took them more than a year to turn the situation around and to turn the war around. When the Russians were surprised in Barbarossa, it took them more than two years for them to begin to overcome the German army. And we, who were surprised - not a tactical surprise, but a strategic surprise, and we were caught completely off-guard in the worst situation... the enemy never dreamed they would catch us in such a situation, with a tenth of our forces, and therefore we prepared... within 10 days, we managed to turn the war around, and within two or three weeks, to find ourselves 100 kilometers away from Cairo and 60 kilometers from Damascus; after all our losses, to overcome these two armies and turn the war around against the enemy, and if no one had stopped us, we could have completely eliminated these two armies. So that shows you how prepared the Israeli army was.

INT: Dunya told me that one very bad moment for you was when a boy who lived in your neighborhood died during the battles.

A: That belongs to my wife's stories; but while and I and my son and daughter were on the battlefield, my wife remained behind with our young daughter, a high school student, and all her friends were here in this house; they were together, encouraging each other and listening to the information. But since Israel is a small country and everyone knows everyone, my wife got many phone calls from different friends of my son who were at the front and could send back any information. She was asked to get information: people would call her saying, "Please help us get some news from our sons," and she of course tried to get information and to help. Here she is, over there.

INT: OK. Just two more questions, really. What difference do you think superpower weapons made to the outcome of the war? Could you have fought the war in the same way without the intervention of America and the Soviet Union?

A: During the war itself, we hardly received any supplies, as I mentioned before. But basically, in this war there were representatives of the two superpowers: on the one side, the Israeli army that fought with American systems, and on the other side Arab armies fighting with Soviet doctrine and training and weapons. But since the American systems were more sophisticated and better than the Soviet ones, and I think the Israeli army was also a better army than the Arab armies, using this difference of quality of weapon systems and of the Israeli army itself, we managed, in spite of the strategic surprise and the very difficult situation we were in, to overcome quickly and to win the war.

INT: My last question. Could you just tell me again how you turned the war around? What happened?

A: We suffered great losses at the beginning of the war, but the motivation to fight was very strong, and the people who were lightly wounded remained on the battlefield, and other wounded soldiers, the moment they could, they left the hospitals and ran back to the front; and students came back from the United States and European countries. All the Israelis rushed back; they came to the embassies and to the airports and came back to Israel. In the meantime, our repair shops repairtanks day and night, very quickly, and rushed tanks back to the front. So the situation, compared to previous wars - for example, in the Six-Day War we were prepared against the army, and when the war broke out we surprised them tactically. But basically there were two armies facing each other full force. We are always smaller in numbers compared to their numbers, but our whole forces were prepared on both sides. In this war it was a different situation: a tenth of our force was prepared, facing their entire forces. Because of this difficult situation, we ran too quickly into the war and too strong a blow, and only later did we manage to gather up our forces, the students, the repaired tanks, to bring our strength back to half our power, and then with half this power we continued to fight all the way, while we had daily losses and hit tanks, but every day tanks were repaired and people joining again, and with half our power we managed to finish the war.

INT: ... Did you welcome the Camp David accords in 1979?

A: Certainly, yes, we were very glad to achieve war [sic - agreement?], and we think it's due to the Yom Kippur War, because then the Egyptians saw that even under ideal conditions, when they attacked us completely by surprise with their entire force and we were taken completely off-guard, even in this situation we managed to conquer them. That is when they understood that they would not be able to...

INT: It's a lovely answer, but I'll just ask you that again.

(B/g talk. Cut.)

INT: So can you tell me: did you welcome the Camp David accords?

A: Yes, certainly, we were very glad. After so many wars and so many years of recurrent wars with the Arabs, finally we managed to achieve what we'd always wanted: a peace agreement with the first Arab country; and we think it's due to the Yom Kippur War, when the Egyptians realized that they could not conquer us. After they attacked us in the very best conditions, and we were in the worst conditions - they had fantastic conditions, and even under these conditions they failed, and they finally realized there was no choice and they could not win it by force - the only thing that would do was political negotiation between the two sides.

INT: What are your personal recollections of Moshe Dayan and Prime Minister Golda Meir?

A: Moshe Dayan would come to my division and to the other divisions daily; he would spend a few hours in my APC, advancing along with me, and we would exchange many opinions, and I think that although later on, after the war, many people criticized him, I think he always looked ahead and always chose... he could see what was important and what was not important, and I think he was stable and always looked ahead at the steps that should be taken in the future. And Prime Minister Golda Meir I met once during the war, in a consultation I was called to before the crossing, and after the war, and we always knew she was a very strong woman, and indeed she was.

INT: Is there any possibility that the war was planned as an opportunity by the United States, and perhaps Israel, to achieve a peace in the Middle East?

A: No, no, I don't think so, although I know that Kissinger thought that it might be good for the two sides to beat each other up, so that afterwards they would finally reach the realization that peace is best. You can't deny that; it definitely affected it, but I don't think it was planned.