Yigal Allon[1] (Hebrew: יגאל אלון‎; 10 October 1918 – 29 February 1980) was an Israeli politician, commander of the Palmach, and general in the IDF. He served as one of the leaders of Ahdut HaAvoda party and the Israeli Labor party, and briefly as acting Prime Minister of Israel in 1969 - the first native born prime minister. He was a Knesset member and government minister from the third Knesset to the ninth inclusive. Allon died unexpectedly in 1980 after he suffered a cardiac arrest.

Yigal Allon
יגאל אלון
Portrait of Yigal Allon.jpg
Yigal Allon in 1969, serving as Minister of Education & Culture.
Acting Prime Minister of Israel
In office
26 February 1969 – 17 March 1969
PresidentZalman Shazar
Preceded byLevi Eshkol
Succeeded byGolda Meir
Ministerial roles
1961–1968Minister of Labour
1968–1969Minister of Immigrant Absorption
1968–1977Deputy Prime Minister
1969Interim Prime Minister
1969–1974Minister of Education and Culture
1974–1977Minister of Foreign Affairs
Faction represented in the Knesset
1955–1965Ahdut HaAvoda
1968–1969Labor Party
Personal details
Born(1918-10-10)10 October 1918
Kfar Tavor, Occupied Enemy Territory Administration
Died29 February 1980(1980-02-29) (aged 61)
Afula, Israel
Spouse(s)Ruth Episdorf
EducationKadoorie Agricultural High School
St Antony's College, Oxford

Allon, born a child of pioneer settlers in the Lower Galilee, became a member of the Labor Movement and a resident of Kibbutz Ginosar in his teen years. With the eruption of the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, Allon joined the Haganah and later the Palmach. He commanded a squad and organized key operations in the Jewish Resistance Movement such as the "Night of the Bridges." During the 1947–1949 Palestine war Allon commanded the conquest of the Galilee, Lod and Ramla, as well as the entire Negev up to Eilat as Head of the Southern Command. Allon transpired as a skilled strategist and master of military deception.

After a forced relief from command by Premier David Ben-Gurion, Allon entered politics while being Adorned with the glory of his military service. Allon was one of the architects of the Labor party creation, advocating for the merge of Ahdut HaAvoda with Mapai for the completion of this goal. During his political career, Allon served as Foreign and Education minister, as well as Deputy Prime Minister, and once devised the "Allon Plan" named after him. Allon took part in the Sinai Interim Agreement in 1975 and served as Acting Prime Minister between the death of Levi Eshkol and the appointment of Golda Meir. Allon's reputation as a politician is that of one who missed his opportunity for greatness, such as the appointment of his political rival, Moshe Dayan, to Defense Minister, instead of him, on the eve of the Six-Day War. Allon died while campaigning for the leadership of the Labor party.

Early YearsEdit

Yigal Peikowitz (later Allon) was born in Kfar Tavor. His father, Reuven, immigrated to Palestine in 1890 along with his father and elder brother from Belarus, then a part of the Russian Empire.[2] His mother, Haia Shortz-Peikowitz, came from a religious family from Safed, and her father was a founding member of Rosh Pinna. When Yigal was five years old, his mother passed away and his older brothers went their own path. Yigal, the youngest child, remained with his father. The area of Kfar Tavor was isolated and had to cope with daily raids and thefts by neighboring Arab and Bedouin communities. When Yigal reached age 13 and a Bar mitzvah was held, his father gave him a gun and sent him to protect farm crops from thieves.

In 1934, aged 16, Yigal began learning in Kadoorie Agricultural High School, where he first admitted to the ideals of the Labor movement with its Socialist and Zionist base. It was in school when Allon became aware that his education from home was very poor and limited in relation to his classmates from urban areas. His teachers came with the attitude of expanding horizons and encourage him to close gaps in his education relative to other classmates. In his autobiography, Allon glorified the school director, regarded him as an outstanding educator, claiming he taught him human and social values.

After graduating from Kadoorie Agricultural High School in 1937, Allon became one of the founders of Kibbutz Ginosar.[3] Allon was married to Ruth, who made Aliyah from Germany in 1934, a year after the installment of the Nazi regime. Their eldest daughter Nurit was on the autism spectrum.[4] In Ginosar, Allon made an impression as a local leading figure and became friends with Berl Katznelson. Allon ideologically supported Labor Zionism.

Military careerEdit

L-R: Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Sadeh, Yigal Allon, at Kibbutz Hanita (1938)

Allon joined Haganah in 1931 and went on to command a field unit and then a mobile patrol in northern Palestine during the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine.[5] During the revolt, while working on the fields and farms of the Kibbutz, Allon was summoned to take a position of command in the Haganah by Yitzhak Sadeh. After completing a squad command course, Allon was appointed to the command of the Mobile Guards. Allon took part in the expulsion of Arabs who immigrated with their flocks to the Jewish fields. He also became known for the ambushes he planned for gangs that infiltrated the settlements.

During this period, he participated in several operations of the Special Night Squads (SNS), under the command of Orde Charles Wingate and Bala Bredin. In 1941 he became one of the founding members of the Palmach. In 1941 and 1942, he was a scout with the British forces who fought in Syria and Lebanon.[6] In 1945, he became Commander in Chief of the Palmach.[7]

Yitzhak Sadeh (left) and Yigal Allon, 1948
Yitzhak Rabin and Allon (1949)

On 22 June 1948, at the climax of David Ben-Gurion's confrontation with the Irgun over the distribution of weapons from the Altalena, Allon commanded the troops that were ordered to shell the vessel.[8] During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Allon led several of the major operations on all three fronts, including Yiftach in the Galilee, Danny in the centre, Yoav, and Horev in the Negev. His last major military roles as commander were in October and December 1948: Operation Yoav towards the Hebron Hills and Operation Horev along the Southern Egyptian Front. As Operational Commander of the Southern Command he was responsible for security along the borders with Egypt and parts of Jordan. On 4 June 1949, he declared an 8 kilometres (5 mi) wide closed military zone along the border.[9] On 18 October 1949, while he was in an official visit in Paris, Allon was told by his French hosts that Ben Gurion had decided to replace Allon as OC Southern Command and appointed Moshe Dayan in his place. Most of Allon's staff officers resigned in protest.[10] He retired from active service in 1950.[11]

Political careerEdit

In January 1948, Allon helped form the left-wing Mapam party. However, after the 1948 war, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion told Allon to dissociate himself from the party, a rival of his own governing Mapai party, as he saw it as too left-wing and a threat to state security.[12] In December 1948, Mapam co-leader Meir Ya'ari criticized Allon's use of tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees to achieve strategic goals.[13]

In 1950–1952, he studied philosophy and history at St Antony's College, Oxford.[14]

After ending his military career, Allon embarked on a public political career. He became a prominent leader in Ahdut HaAvoda, which had split from Mapam in 1954, and was first elected to the Knesset in 1955, where he served until his death. He was a member of the Economic Affairs Committee, Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, Education and Culture Committee, Joint Committee on the Motion for the Agenda Regarding Sports in Israel, and the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Right to Left: U.S. Secretary of Labor, William Willard Wirtz, Israeli Prime Minister, Levi Eshkol and Israeli Minister of Labor, Yigal Allon.

Allon served as the Minister of Labour from 1961 to 1968. In this role he worked to improve the state employment service, extend the road network, and fought to get legislation on labor relations passed. From 1968 to 1969 he served as the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Immigrant Absorption. Allon served briefly as interim Prime Minister following the death of Levi Eshkol on 26 February 1969. He held office until 17 March 1969, when Golda Meir took over after being elected leader of the Labor Party. He became the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Culture in Meir's government, and served in that post until 1974. During the September 1970 crisis in Jordan he advocated supporting King Hussein in his conflict with the PLO.[15] In 1974 he was a part of the delegation to the Separation of Forces Agreement. He became the Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1974 and held this post until 1977.[16][17] At the time of his sudden death in 1980, he was a candidate for the leadership of the Alignment, challenging the incumbent party head Shimon Peres.

Allon during the 50th anniversary of the Histadrut, 1969.
Foreign Minister Allon sitting with Joop den Uyl, Prime Minister of the Netherlands.

Allon was the architect of the Allon Plan, a proposal to end Israeli occupation of parts of the West Bank with a negotiated partition of territories.[18] The plan was presented to the cabinet in July 1967, right after the Six-Day War. According to the plan, Israel would retain one-third of the West Bank and protect itself from invasion from the east by a strip of settlements and military installations along the Jordan Valley. The mountain ridge west of this strip, which was populated by Arabs, would be confederated with Jordan. A strip of land flanking the Jericho-Jerusalem road, Gush Etzion and a large part of the Hebron Hills area, would be annexed. Minor territorial changes would be made along the Green Line, specifically in the area of Latrun. Allon also called for the development of Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, the rehabilitation of the Old City's Jewish Quarter, and the annexation of Gaza, whose Arab inhabitants would be resettled elsewhere.[19]

Death and commemorationEdit

Allon died of heart failure in Afula[20] on 29 February 1980. He was buried on the shore of Sea of Galilee in the cemetery of Kibbutz Ginosar (Kibbutz Ginosar Cemetery) in the Northern District.[21] The funeral was attended by tens of thousands of mourners, with condolences extended by many world leaders, including Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.[22]

Explaining the growing admiration for Yigal Allon three decades after his death, Oren Dagan of the Society for the Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites said, "people wish to live in the kind of state Yigal Allon dreamed of, for example on the Arab-Jewish issue. This isn't a post-Zionist approach, neither hesitant nor apologetic. It's an approach of safety and security that says, 'Our place is here,' but still emphasizes the importance of dialogue, and never through condescension or arrogance. Allon extended a hand in peace, and that's the approach we want leaders to adopt today."[23]

Published worksEdit

  • Allon, Yigal (1970). Shield of David. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-297-00133-7.
  • Allon, Yigal (1970). The Making of Israel's Army. London: Vallentine, Mitchell. ISBN 0-853-03027-8.
  • Allon, Yigal (1975). My Father's House. New York: W. W. Norton. Archived from the original on 16 February 2013.

Further readingEdit


  1. ^ The name Yigal or Yigael Allon is Hebrew, translates as "he redeems ...under the burning bush" has multiple contextual references in the Old Testament in the books of Genesis, Isaiah, and Ezekiel
  2. ^ Miller, Ylana (1 July 2008). "ISRAEL-Yigal Allon, Native Son: A Biography". The Middle East Journal. 62 (3): 523. Archived from the original on 13 June 2020. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  3. ^ Rabinovich, Itamar; Rabinovich, Ettinger Chair in Contemporary History of the Middle East Director the Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies Itamar; Rabînôvîṣ, Îtāmār; Reinharz, Jehuda; Reinharz, President and Richard Koret Professor of Modern Jewish History Jehuda (13 June 2008). Israel in the Middle East: Documents and Readings on Society, Politics, and Foreign Relations, Pre-1948 to the Present. UPNE. ISBN 9780874519624 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Shapira, Anita (30 June 2015). Yigal Allon, Native Son: A Biography. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0812203431 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "Haapalah / Aliyah Bet - Places". www.wertheimer.info.
  6. ^ Yigal Allon (Peikowitz), 1918-1980
  7. ^ "Yigal Allon, Native Son | Anita Shapira, Evelyn Abel". www.upenn.edu.
  8. ^ Bar Zohar, Michael (1978). Ben-Gurion. A Biography. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. p. 174. ISBN 0-297-77401-8.
  9. ^ Morris, Benny (1993). Israel's Border Wars, 1949 – 1956. Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation, and the Countdown to the Suez War. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 126. ISBN 0-19-827850-0. Quoting Weitz, Yomani, iv33 entry 4 June 1949.
  10. ^ Dayan, Moshe (1976). Story of my Life. New York: William Morrow and Company. p. 150. ISBN 0-688-03076-9.
  11. ^ "Yigal Allon". Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Israel).
  12. ^ "Israel's 'Golden Boy': A New Biography Explores How It Is We Came To Forget Yigal Allon". Jewish Daily Forward. 11 July 2008. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  13. ^ Morris, Benny (1987). The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949. ISBN 0-521-33028-9, page 211
  14. ^ 'Allon for London' in Jewish Observer and Middle East Review (Volume 16, William Samuel & Company Limited, 1967), issue dated 29 December 1967, p. 1
  15. ^ Shlaim, Avi (2007). Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace. London: Penguin Books. pp. 330–331.
  16. ^ "Allon, Yigal (1918–1980)". Junior Judaica, Encyclopaedia Judaica for Youth. Jewish Agency for Israel. 1992.
  17. ^ "Yigal Allon". Jewish Virtual Library. The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. 2012.
  18. ^ The Jordanian Option: The plan that refuses to die, Haaretz
  19. ^ "'Allon-Plus' - A rejected plan is resurrected - Jerusalem Post | HighBeam Research". 25 February 2016. Archived from the original on 25 February 2016.
  20. ^ Yigal Allon (Israeli politician). Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  21. ^ 1st Century Galilee Boat (29 February 1980). "Yigal Allon | Jesus Boat Museum, Israel |". Jesusboat.com. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  22. ^ "Tens of Thousands of People Attend Funeral of Yigal Allon". 3 March 1980.
  23. ^ Three decades on Yigal Allon still inspires youth, Haaretz

External linksEdit