12 Things You Need to Know About…Yigal Allon

Israeli warrior and labor Zionist

1. His father had made aliyah in 1890, and he was born Yigal Pelkowitz (or Palcovitch) at Kfar Tavor in the lower Galilee in October 1918. Shortly after graduating from Kadoorie Agricultural High School in 1937, he became one of the founders of Kibbutz Ginosar, also in Galilee.

2. During the Arab revolt of 1936-9, he commanded a field unit of the Haganah and then a mobil patrol. He was part of a hand-picked unit that included Moshe Dayan, working alongside the British in the counter-insurgent Special Night Squads under Captain Orde Wingate, who taught and favored ruthless tactics.

180px-Yigal_Allon3. World War II broke out. In 1941, Allon became one of the founding members of the Palmach, the elite strike force of the Haganah. In 1941-2, he was a scout with the British forces against the Vichy French in Syria and Lebanon. In 1945, he became Commander-in-Chief of the Palmach. In 1947, he approved an attack on the village of al Khisar in which homes were destroyed and civilians killed.

4. In June 1948, following the establishment of the State of Israel, he commanded the troops ordered to shell the vessel Altalena in Ben-Gurion’s confrontation with the Irgun.

5. That same year, in the Israeli War of Independence, Allon led several operations on all three fronts – the Galilee, the Center and the Negev – driving out the invading Arab armies and capturing many prisoners of war. He retired from active service in 1950.

6. He studied at the Hebrew University and at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford, reading philosophy and history. He became prominent in the Ahdut HaAvodah (Labor Unity) party and in 1955 was elected for the first time to the Knesset. He was to serve until his death twenty-five years later.

7. He held many prominent portfolios in the cabinets of David Ben-Gurion, Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir. From 1961-7 he served as Minister of Labor; from 1967-9, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Immigrant Absorption; interim Prime Minister, briefly, in February-March, 1969; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Culture, 1969-74; Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1974-77.

220px-Yigal_alon8. He was the architect of the Allon Plan, a proposal to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank by negotiated partition of the territories between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, plus a Druze state on the Golan Heights. The plan was presented to the cabinet in July 1967, at the end of the Six-Day War. It was not accepted by Jordan’s King Hussein.

9. In 1974, he served as a member of the Israeli delegation to the separation-of-forces agreements signed with Egypt and Syria.

10. He was Chairman of the World Labor Zionist movement from 1978-80.

11. He authored Shield of David, 1970, an account of the development of Israel’s defense forces; and My Father’s House, 1975, an autobiography. (He is listed, as well, as the author of The Making of Israel’s Army, 1970, but I believe this to be the British edition of Shield of David.)

12. He died unexpectedly of heart failure in February 1980. His funeral was attended by tens of thousands of mourners. President Yitzhak Navon said in his eulogy that Allon dedicated himself to three matters: Israel’s quest for a just, secure peace with its neighbors; strengthening ties with diaspora Jewry; and finding new paths for Israeli youth. He was buried on the shore of Lake Kinneret in the cemetery of Kibbutz Ginosar, where there is a museum named in his memory.

In Tel Aviv, you’ll find Yigal Allon Street just east of the Ayalon River, running north-south in the vicinity of Derech HaShalom. In Safed you’ll find the Yigal Allon Cultural Center, named in his memory.

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