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October 15, 2013 12:09 pm

Israeli PM Netanyahu Says Lesson of Yom Kippur War is Not to Rule Out Pre-Emptive Strikes

avatar by Joshua Levitt

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz surveys reserve troops on Yom Kippur, 2011. Photo: IDF Spokesperson.

Commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said one of the lessons Israel has learned is never to rule out the option of pre-emptive strikes against its enemies.

Speaking at a special Knesset session to mark  the anniversary of a war started with an Egyptian blitz on a national holiday, the Jewish Day of Atonement, Netanyahu said, “The first lesson is that threats must never be disdained. Never belittle an enemy; never ignore the signs of danger. The second lesson is that pre-emptive strikes must not be ruled out.”

He said pre-emptive strikes “are not necessarily called for in every case and matters must be given due and careful consideration, but there are situations in which thinking about the international response to such a step is not equal to the bloody price we would pay in absorbing the strategic blow we would be compelled to respond to later, perhaps too late.”

In a direct corollary to his government’s calls for the use of pre-emptive force against the Iranian regime’s nuclear program to remain on the table, Netanyahu said a preventive war “is one of the hardest decisions” for a government because “it will never be able to prove what would have happened had it not acted.”

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He said the difference between the Yom Kippur War and Israel’s other great victory, the Six Day War, in 1967, was that in the latter, Israel “broke, with a pre-emptive strike, the strangulating ring that our enemies had placed around us” and in the former, “despite the early signs, the government chose to absorb the enemy’s attack in all its strength.”

On Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani began a United Nations meeting in Geneva focused on dialing down the regime’s nuclear program, which it claims is for energy use. Netanyahu told the United Nations earlier this month that the centrifuges currently being operated by Tehran have no bearing on energy production and that further delays in dismantling the program put the world at risk with the possibility of Tehran going nuclear in secret, as did North Korea.

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