Report: Dayan asked Golda Meir to prepare nuclear option in ‘73

(JTA) — Moshe Dayan urged Golda Meir to prepare to launch a nuclear strike during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, according to a former Israeli official’s longtime aide and confidant.

Arnon Azaryahu, who was an aide to Israel Galili, a Cabinet minister during the war, said in an interview that Dayan, the defense minister at the time, suggested that Meir, then the prime minister, order to begin preparations to enable a nuclear option on Oct. 8, 1973 — the second day of the war.

The Yom Kippur War broke out when Syria and Egypt simultaneously mounted a surprise attack against Israel.

Dayan, Azaryahu said, told Meir that “since the situation is very bad, it would be worthwhile, since we don’t have a lot of time and a lot of options, that we prepare to show the nuclear option.” Meir declined, Azaryahu said.

Azaryahu recounted the incident during a filmed interview published Thursday for the first time on the website of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Wilson center called Azaryahu a “long-term Israeli government insider.”

Egyptian and Syrian forces made initial territorial gains in the early stages of the war of three weeks, but the Israeli army repelled the advancing Arab troops and penetrated deep into Syrian and Egyptian territory before an armistice was brokered later in the month. Some 2,000 Israeli troops died in the war.

The interview with Azaryahu was conducted several years ago by Avner Cohen, a historian who specializes in Israel’s presumed nuclear arms program — a capability that Israel has neither confirmed nor denied.

Azaryahu said he was not in the room when the Dayan-Meir exchange reportedly took place, but learned about it later that day from Galili, who was present.

Dayan had invited Shalhevet Freir, the director general of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, to Meir’s chambers to begin preparations in case she allowed the request, Azaryahu said. But Meir “told Dayan to forget it,” Azaryahu said.

Freir did not meet Meir but waited outside with Azaryahu, according to the account.

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