TEL AVIV, Israel -- The late Prime Minister Golda Meir considered suicide after accepting intelligence reports downplaying the threat of war that allowed Egypt to mount a surprise attack in 1973, a new book said today.
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was ready to make peace with Israel, based on total Israeli withdrawal from all occupied Arab territory soon after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, according to the book, 'Low Probability.'
Sadat's position was communicated to Israel by the United States on the eve of the Geneva conference Oct. 31, 1973, said the book by Shlomo Nakdimon, one-time press adviser to Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
Details of the book were released today prior to publication.
The Americans said Sadat would be ready for 'anything,' including peace talks, the demilitarization of Sinai and the stationing of an international peacekeeping force there in return for an Israeli withdrawal.
Sadat, in return, wanted recognition of Egypt's sovereignty over the desert region. Egypt ultimately got the Sinai back from Israel in a peace treaty signed in 1979 after Sadat paid an historic visit to Jerusalem.
Nakdimon's book, based on hitherto classified documents and interviews with officials, takes its title from the pre-war assessment of Israeli military intelligence that a new war in the Middle East was improbable.
Then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan backed military intelligence head Eli Zeira's assessment, ruling out the opposite prognosis offered by Zvi Zamir, head of the Mossad, the Israeli secret service.
The bad evaluation, the book says, cost Israel valuable mobilization time and contributed to the Jewish state's initial losses in the 1973 fighting in the Golan Heights and Sinai desert.
The setbacks led then-Prime Minister Golda Meir to contemplate suicide and Dayan to offer his resignation.
Mrs. Meir abandoned the idea of suicide for fear it would undermine national morale, and she rejected Dayan's resignation offers, the book said.