The transcripts of the meetings show [Moshe] Dayan, the unflappable eye-patch-wearing defense minister, at the edge of desperation. As Syrian tanks rolled toward the Galilee unimpeded, he understood that he had misread the signals.
“I underestimated the enemy’s strength, I overestimated our own forces,” he is quoted as saying in an early meeting with Prime Minister Golda Meir and others. “The Arabs are much better soldiers than they used to be.” Then: “Many people will be killed.”
Seeking a means of salvation, he urged recruiting older men and Jews from abroad.
Ms. Meir considered a clandestine trip to Washington to persuade President Nixon to help.
A colleague asked what she hoped to get.
“Let him give whatever he has,” she replied. “Does he have tanks in Europe? Let him give them. You want Phantoms? Let him give. Let him see this as his front and not let our guts spill until he gives us one missile.”
In the end, Ms. Meir did not go. But after appealing to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, she did get Mr. Nixon to send an airlift of matériel that made all the difference in Israel’s favor in the 20-day war. Although Israel won, it was the surprise attack and near victory that Egypt and Syria have focused on, and that led Egypt to make peace with Israel five years later in exchange for a return of the Sinai.