Monday, February 27, 2017

A Soldier's Story & Pinkas Sheyrut

Been rereading two inspiring autobiographies: The first, called "Story of a Soldier" is by Raphael Eytan (Raful) z"l, who was the chief of staff of the IDF during the 1982 Lebanese war, and head of Northern command during the 1973 Yom Kippur war, when Egypt and Syria invaded Israel in a massive surprise attack, and were only repulsed after enormous Israeli losses.

The other is by Yitzchak Rabin, z"l, and is called simply "service book". It was published in 1979 by Maariv, and chronicles his early life, military service, and transition into politics. I found his description of the tense period before the six day war of 1967 particularly revealing, in particular his own loneliness and anxiety as the burden of responsibility to make the decisions that would save Israel rested largely on his shoulders. ( At that time he was Chief of Staff of the IDF.) At that time Egypt was amassing huge forces in the Sinai along Israel's border, and Syria was doing the same in the North, in the Golan heights. There was a real possibility that the Soviet Union, which had been equipping and training both the Syrian and Egyptian armies, would get involved in the attacks on Israel.

Israel found itself alone and isolated on the international stage. Because of in fighting between supporters of Levi Eshkol (the Prime Minister) and David Ben Gurion (ex prime minister) the political echelons were not fully functioning, which increased the burden on Rabin. When Egypt closed the straights of Tiran, thus preventing fuel and other supplies from reaching Israel, it was clear Israel would have to act. But first the goverment decided to send Abba Eban (foreign minister) to London, Paris and to Washington to meet with Lyndon Johnson, to see if an American guarantee to open the straights could be obtained, and a promise to intervene should Egypt and Syria invade Israel. This meant delaying a preemptive military strike - and Rabin was well aware that with every passing day the Egyptian forces were more of a threat. On May 25 1967 Rabin collapsed - partly as a result of exhaustion, partly from extreme anxiety, partly from nicotine poisoning...he had chain smoked his way through the endless meetings with the security cabinet and chiefs of staff. 

To be continued....

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