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  • Writer's pictureiKonnect

Ben Gurion's Controversial Decision

On June 19th, 1948, Ben Gurion decided that the Palmah unit should be disbanded, and the unit was integrated within the newly created IDF. This decision raised quite a few eyebrows, and many questioned the move.

Let's quickly recap what happened before that day.

At the beginning of 1941, Nazi Germany was overtaking Europe and spreading into the Middle East, with help from Vichy France and its other supporters. The British Mandate in Israel understood they needed a special force that would be able to carry out attacks on the Nazi forces. The Jewish Yishuv that was already assisting the British army thought this would be necessary in order to defend the promised land. Thus the Palmah unit was born.

The Palmah participated in operations in Lebanon and the north of Israel against Vichy France, but it mainly started preparing to block the Nazi forces that were to penetrate the Israeli border through Egypt. Fortunately, Rommel's defeat in the Second Battle of El Alamein prevented the Nazis from ever reaching Israeli territory, but that doesn't mean the training was for nothing. Preparing to join a large army in battle is what helped the Palmah in the War of Independence, as it joined the new IDF in defending the state.

After the British victory in El Alamein, they stopped funding the Palmah and the unit had to go underground. In 1943, the Palmah turned into an official mobilized power, including reserves, proper training, and officer schools.

During the Saison (1944-45), the Etzel and the Lehi didn't support the Jewish Yishuv leadership and continued with their underground battles against the British Mandate. The Jewish leadership believed this would sabotage the plans to establish the Jewish State, so the Palmah was responsible to stop these actions, and many Etzel and Lehi members were apprehended, tortured, and even surrendered to the British. This was one of the roughest times in our country's history, and boy are we glad we weren't around to witness this Milhemet Ahim (brother/civil war).

After World War II, the Palmah joined the efforts against the British, mostly carrying out retaliation operations, and helping the Maapilim get absorbed into the country. After the "Black Sabbath" in 1946, the Palmah stopped their armed battle against the British and concentrated on building the Yishuv and bringing over the Maapilim from Europe.

To make a long story really short, by the War of Independence, the Palmah consisted of over 2,000 soldiers and around another 1,000 reserves. The Palmah was stationed in the Negev, and also fought in the Galilee and the Jezreel Valley. During the war, the Palmah doubled in size and turned into a serious military force.

During the war, Ben Gurion decided to disband the Palmah, and integrate it into the IDF. His goal was to create one uniform military for the new young country, and he thought the Palmah's spirit was more like a partisan movement than a real army, like the British. Many criticized this move and believed the decision was based purely on political interests, and it served as a source for political altercations for decades afterward.

The Palmah was only around for around eight years, but in such a short time, it managed to become an integral part of the State of Israel's history. Like any other piece of our state's history, the Palmah had its ups and downs and was part of many major scandals and blowups, but one thing is for sure - the state of Israel most likely wouldn't have been established without the help of the Palmah!


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