Israel was not on the brink of nuclear strike in 1973 –video
Israel's prime minister rejected nuclear option in first days of Yom Kippur War, eyewitness reveals
A NEWLY-RELEASED eyewitness interview has challenged the popular belief that Israel was on the brink of launching a nuclear attack during the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
A number of journalists and scholars have claimed that at a cabinet meeting on 7 October 1973, the second day of the war, Prime Minister Golda Meir agreed to prepare the country's nuclear weapons for possible use.
But 40 years on, an Israeli historian has released an interview with Arnan Azaryahu, a senior aide to an Israeli cabinet minister at the time, who says Meir showed much more restraint.
In the interview, filmed in January 2008, Azaryahu explains that he was sitting outside the meeting, held in Meir's office in Tel Aviv. A small group of ministers were discussing what military action to take after Isreali borders had been breached by a massive assault from a coalition of Arab armies.
As the meeting adjourned, the defence minister, Moshe Dayan, proposed that the country prepare for a "demonstration" of Israel's nuclear weapons capability, says Azaryahu. His reasoning was that immediate authorisation would save precious time and enable the country to detonate a bomb much more quickly should the need arise.
At this point, says Azaryahu, two senior ministers said it was too early to consider the nuclear option and insisted that Israel could prevail using conventional weapons. The prime minister reportedly sided with the two ministers and told Dayan to "forget it".
The historian who carried out the interview, Avner Cohen, describes Azaryahu's testimony as "the first and only credible Israeli eyewitness account to date of the nuclear dimension of the Yom Kippur War".
Azaryahu died in November 2008 and it has taken Cohen five years to release the video. He wrote in the New York Times yesterday: "Mr Azaryahu's testimony reveals that Israel's leadership, with the notable exception of Mr Dayan, recognised the danger of the nuclear brink and wisely refused to approach it. In that meeting, Israel's leaders, especially Ms Meir, demonstrated remarkable restraint at a time when the country's survival hung in the balance." ·