Ask an average Israeli teenager who were Yitzhak Rabin, Morderkhai Gur or Rafael Eitan and there is a good chance they will have some idea. Mention Moshe Peled and they will probably shrug their shoulders, oblivious to the great debt that Israel owes this exceptional man who sadly died back in 2000 at the age of 74.
When the Yom Kippur war broke out on October the 6th 1973, Lieutenant-General Moshe “Musa” Peled was already a very experienced and highly respected armour officer. He was the commander of Israel’s 146th armoured division that was held as a General Staff reserve force. As the Jordanian border remained quiet, his division was ordered to move north to the foot of the Golan Heights where Isreal’s defence lines where crumbling leaving the northern Galilee completely exposed,
Upon arrival at the Northern Command HQ, he found an atmosphere of doom and gloom. In the south of the Golan, Syrian forces have practically wiped out an entire armoured brigade. In the north, another brigade was fighting a desperate battle, barely managing to hold the Syrians back at a terrible cost He was ordered to place his forces below the Heights, along the Jordan River, and there to set up a second line of defence, thus allowing the Syrians to complete their retake of the Golan.
Peled fiercely objected, demanding to be allowed to go on the offensive and drive the Syrians back into Syria. For a couple of days he relentlessly argued his point with his superiors, both top commanders and government ministers. It is told that during a meeting with Moshe Dayan, then Israel’s Defence Minister, Dayan broke down in tears and said to Peled: “You don’t understand what is happening… this is the destruction of the Third Temple!”
Eventually, on October the 8th, Peled’s armoured division went on the offensive against the Syrian forces occupying the southern sector. Two more divisions rallied to the call and attacked the Syrians in the central and northern sectors. The Air Force also joined battle despite heavy losses to its squadrons in previous days. Within four days, the Golan was clear of Syrian forces and Israeli tanks and artillery were streaming into Syrian territory, shelling the outskirts of Damascus.
I have met Musa Peled a few times after the war and spent some time with him, watching him in action. A friendly, unassuming man, who’s deceptive Moshavnik looks hid an extremely focused, highly intelligent and well educated man.
On one occasion I saw him standing at the top of the hill of Karnei Khitim in the Eastern Galilee, giving several visiting European Generals an impromptu lecture on the battle that took place there hundreds of years before between the Crusaders and the forces of Salah-al-Din.
On another occassion I travelled with him on a Sabbath, him wearing his civilian clothes with his wife at his side, to Kibbutz Ein Gedi near the Dead Sea where, as the supreme commander of Isreal’s armoured corps, he came to ask the Kibbutz’s general assembly to relieve one of their talented factory managers from his duties in the Kibbutz so that he could be enlisted back into a command role in the corps.
The hall of fame of the American Armour Museum at Fort Knox, Kentucky lists the five greatest armour commanders of all times. There, alongside men like General George S. Patton and General Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, General Moshe Peled is forever remembered.