Yigal Allon, who died Friday at the age of 61, was one of the giants of the younger leadership that founded the State of Israel and governed it for most of its existence. A leader of Labor Zionism, a hero of Israel’s War of Independence and one of the major figures of the Labor Party in government and in opposition, Allon never achieved his goal of becoming Premier.
Allon was born Oct. 10, 1918 in Kfar Tabor. His father, Reuben Poicovitch, was one of the pioneer farmers in the Lower Galilee. Allan attended agriculture school and helped his father farm until he joined with others in founding Kibbutz Ginossar overlooking the Sea of Galilee where he remained a member until his death.
As a young man Allon joined the Palmach and was a member of the special squad organized by Orde Wingate. By 1948 he had risen from private to general and commander of the Polmach. Allon withdrew temporarily from the Palmach when the Jewish Agency adopted the policy of hunting down the Irgun. He returned to head it during the War of Independence.
He fought on all fronts and was the first Israeli commander to push into the Sinai after Egyptian forces going as far as the outskirts of El Arish before Premier David Ben Gurion ordered him back under pressure from the United States. One of his prisoners, whom he personally interrogated, was a young officer named Gamel Abdel Nasser, who later became President of Egypt. Later Allon was relieved of the southern command while on an official visit to France. He was replaced by Moshe Dayan, which probably began the rivalry between the two generals who for most of Israel’s Labor Party rule were considered the two government members who could talk to the Arabs.
VARIOUS ROLES IN GOVERNMENT
In 1950, Allon went to Oxford to study philosophy and history and worked together with the noted military historian B. H. Liddell Hart. in 1952, he returned and was appointed secretary general of Achdut Ha’avodah of which he continued to be a leader throughout his life. In 1961, he became Minister of Labor after being recalled from England where he was taking courses in Near East studies.
On the eve of the 1967 Six-Day War both Achdut Ha’avodah and some segments of Mapai were urging Premier Levi Eshkol to appoint Allon Minister of Defense instead of giving into public pressure to name Dayan to the post. Allon was out of the country and when he returned it was too late and Eshkol decided to name Dayan.
After the 1967 war, Allon was the first Cabinet member to propose a settlement with Jordan. His plan, which became known as the Allon Plan and for which he is best known outside Israel, proposed restoring most of the populous areas of West Bank to Jordan while retaining paramilitary settlements on the Jordan River. In 1968, he became the first Cabinet minister to move his official residence into the Old City of Jerusalem.
Eshkol named Allon Deputy Premier in 1968 and he also moved him from Labor to the Education Ministry. He held these parts under Premier Golda Meir. When Yitzhak Robin, who had served under Allon in the Palmoch, became Premier, Allon became Foreign Minister, a post be held until Labor was ousted by the Likud government. Since 1978, in addition to being one of Labor’s chief opposition spokesmen in the Knesset he was also chairman of the World Labor Zionist Movement.
But he never gave up his hope of being Premier. Earlier this year he announced a challenge to Shimon Peres as chairman of the Labor Party but Peres won a 2-1 endorsement from the party’s leadership group. Allon had indicated he would challenge Peres at the Labor Party convention in June.
Throughout his government service, Allon always considered Kibbutz. Ginossar his home, going there on weekends and holidays and taking his turn working in the dining room, the Fields or electronics factory. Practically every world statesmen who visited Israel was brought to Ginossar as Allon’s guest. The last was Gen. Kamal Hassan Ali;- Egypt’s Defense Minister, who visited the kibbutz Thursday. Allan complained of chest pains two hours after the general left and was taken to a hospital in Afula where he died Friday.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.