Yigal Allon, Native Son: A Biography

Ani­ta Shapi­ra; Eve­lyn Abel, trans.
  • Review
By – March 5, 2012

Dur­ing Israel’s War of Inde­pen­dence, no com­man­der had more con­se­quen­tial suc­cess­es than Yigal Allon. Yet all the oth­er major mil­i­tary fig­ures of 1948 eclipsed Allon in both mil­i­tary and polit­i­cal life— notably his Pal­mach coun­ter­part Moshe Dayan, and his pro­tégé Yitzchak Rabin. Ani­ta Shapi­ra aims to restore Allon to the pic­ture. She depicts a fig­ure root­ed in the Yishuv, whose instincts and val­ues no longer fit the new era of the state. 

The book is anchored by the sto­ry of the Pal­mach in the 1940’s. Shapi­ra describes the many insti­tu­tion­al con­tra­dic­tions built into this new reg­u­lar, mobile armed force, and she puts Allon at the scene of all the major con­flicts over the mis­sion and char­ac­ter of the Pal­mach from its incep­tion to its merg­ing into the IDF. She argues that the out­look of Allon and many oth­ers was formed in small set­tle­ments, where secu­ri­ty and defense were ever-present local issues and where Arabs were often but not always part of the eco­nom­ic life of the vil­lage. Thus Allon and the Pal­mach more gen­er­al­ly were a dif­fer­ent cul­ture from the polit­i­cal and insti­tu­tion­al lead­er­ship, who were more root­ed in the ide­al­ism and ide­ol­o­gy of the kib­butz move­ments, and who thought in terms of the glob­al stage. 

Shapi­ra doesn’t illu­mi­nate the depths of Allon the man, in his fam­i­ly or mil­i­tary life. Yet her account adds some inter­est­ing angles to famil­iar his­to­ry. Though most known today for his post-1967 Allon Plan,” which would have returned much of the West Bank to Arab juris­dic­tion, Allon advo­cat­ed the con­quest of the West Bank for Israel in 1948. Shapi­ra returns on sev­er­al occa­sions to the rival­ry between Allon and Dayan in the 40s and illu­mi­nates the very dif­fer­ent lead­er­ship styles of the two men. She also dis­cuss­es Allon’s post-war reflec­tions on the still-con­tro­ver­sial oper­a­tion that led Arabs to leave the Lod-Ram­le area en masse. While Shapira’s main analy­sis of Allon some­times con­tra­dicts itself, she suc­ceeds — as in her ear­li­er work on the Labor Zion­ist move­ment — in evok­ing the tex­ture of the Yishuv and focus­ing atten­tion on a fig­ure whose sig­nif­i­cance was far greater than we recall today. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, index, notes. 

Jonathan Spi­ra-Savett is a rab­bi and teen edu­ca­tor. He is the rab­bi at Tem­ple Beth Abra­ham in Nashua, NH. His work focus­es on civic edu­ca­tion and youth phil­an­thropy, and he has taught his­to­ry, lit­er­a­ture, and envi­ron­men­tal stud­ies in addi­tion to tra­di­tion­al Jew­ish texts.

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