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One of the biggest mistakes of my life


Destruction of the Egyptian air force ends the war
Uri Avnery Social activist
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Then while we were sitting there, talking about this and that, someone came up to me and whispered in my ear: 'It's over, we've destroyed the Egyptian air force'. Which was true. With all his talk, Nasser had not taken care to protect his airplanes. They stood on the runways and the IDF [Israeli Defence Force] simply destroyed the Egyptian air force on the first morning of the war. And that actually decided the war, because it is impossible to fight without air defence. There were no Soviet missiles yet; they came with the war that followed. In fact, for all of that time, until that moment when there had been panic in the country and talk about a second Holocaust and destruction and all that stuff, I had been happy and contented. I remembered what Dado had said – and I knew not to expect any real danger – that the IDF had been preparing for years for exactly this situation. And so it was. They destroyed the Egyptian air force. The IDF advanced, they reached the canal. The Egyptian army had, in fact, been destroyed. That is, some of them fled back to Egypt, some were surrounded in the area of ​​Sharm el-Sheikh and later I heard that the army had massacred them. A unit of the IDF, I think a brigade under the command of Raful, Rafael Eitan, simply slaughtered the soldiers as they threw down their weapons and wanted to surrender, but I only found that out a few years later. That's it.

ואז באמצע שאנחנו יושבים שמה, משוחחים ככה וככה, מישהו ניגש אלי ולחש לי באוזן: "העניין נגמר, השמדנו את חיל האוויר המצרי”. שזה היה נכון. עם כל הדיבורים שלו, נאסר לא דאג להגן על המטוסים שלו. עמדו על המסלולים וצה"ל פשוט השמיד את כל חיל האוויר המצרי בבוקר הראשון של המלחמה. ובזה למעשה הוכרעה המלחמה, מפני שאי-אפשר להילחם בלי הגנה אווירית. עוד לא היו הטילים הסובייטים שבאו במלחמה שלאחר מכן. ולמעשה כל הימים האלה עד לאותו הרגע כששררה בארץ פאניקה ודיברו על שואה שנייה ועל השמדה וכל הדברים האלה, אני הייתי שמח וטוב לב. זכרתי את האמרה של דדו וידעתי שלא צפויה סכנה אמיתית. שצה"ל בדיוק למצב הזה התכונן במשך שנים. וכך היה. השמידו את חיל האוויר המצרי. צה"ל התקדם, הגיע לתעלה. הצבא המצרי למעשה הושמד. זאת אומרת חלק ברח חזרה למצרים, חלק כותר באזור שארם א-שיח ואחר-כך שמעתי שצה"ל ערך שם טבח. יחידה של צה"ל, אני חושב שחטיבה בפקודת רפול, רפאל איתן, פשוט ערך שם טבח של חיילים שמזמן זרקו את הנשק שלהם ורצו להיכנע. אבל זה רק נודע לי כמה שנים לאחר מכן. זהו.

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Rafael Eitan

Duration: 2 minutes, 39 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 11 May 2017