Plan Dalet Historiography Essay

Only a few acknowledged that the father’s story of return, redemption and liberation was also a story of conquest, displacement, oppression and death.

Yaron Ezrachi, Rubber Bullets

Between the partition plan for Palestine adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 29 November 1947 and the 1949 ceasefire that ended the Arab-Israeli war, begun by the invasion of 15 May 1948, several hundred thousand Palestinians abandoned their homes in territory that ended up occupied by Israel (1).

Palestinian and Arab historians have always maintained that this was an expulsion. The vast majority of the refugees (estimated at between 700,000 and 900,000) were, they say, forced to leave, first, as a result of clashes between Israelis and Palestinians, and then by the Arab-Israeli war, in which a political-military strategy of expulsion had been marked by several massacres. This position was stated as far back as 1961, by Walid Khalidi, in his essay “Plan Dalet: Master Plan for the Conquest of Palestine” (2) and has recently been restated by Elias Sanbar in “Palestine 1948. L’Expulsion” (3).

Mainstream Israeli historians, on the other hand, have always claimed that the refugees (numbering, in their estimation, 500,000 at most) mostly left voluntarily, responding to calls from their leaders assuring them of a prompt return after victory. They deny that the Jewish Agency (and subsequently the Israeli government) had planned the exodus. Furthermore, they maintain that the few (and regrettable) massacres that occurred - particularly the Deir Yassin massacre of 9 April 1948 - were the work of extremist soldiers associated with Menachem Begin’s Irgun and Yitzhak Shamir’s Lehi.

However, by the 1950s this version was already beginning to be contested by leading Israeli figures associated with the Communist Party and with elements of the Zionist left (notably Mapam). Later, in the mid-1980s, they were joined in their critique by a number of historians who described themselves as revisionist historians: Simha Flapan, Tom Segev, Avi Schlaim, Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris. It was Morris’s book, “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem”, that first prompted public concern (4) . Leaving aside differences of subject, methodology and viewpoint, what unites these historians is that they are bent on unpicking Israel’s national myths (5). They have focused particularly on the myths of the first Arab-Israeli war, contributing (albeit partially, as we shall see), to establishing the truth about the Palestinian exodus. And in the process they have incurred the wrath of Israel’s orthodox historians (6).

This research activity was originally stimulated by two separate sets of events. First, the opening of Israeli archives, both state and private, covering the period in question. Here it is worth noting that the historians appear to have ignored almost entirely both the archives of the Arab countries (not that these are notable for their accessibility) and oral history potential among Palestinians themselves, where considerable work has been done by other historians. As the Palestinian historian, Nur Masalha, rightly says: “History and historiography ought not necessarily be written, exclusively or mainly, by the victors (7)".

Second, this delving into Israel’s archives would perhaps not have borne such fruit if the following ten years had not been marked by the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and by the outbreak of the intifada in 1987. Both these events accentuated the split between the nationalist camp and the peace movement in Israel itself. As it turned out, the “new historians” were uncovering the origins of the Palestinian problem at precisely the moment that the whole question of Palestine was returning to centre stage.

In a recent article in the “Revue d’études palestiniennes”  (8), Ilan Pappe, one of the pioneers of this “new historiography”, has stressed the importance of the dialogue that was unfolding in that period between Israelis and Palestinians. It developed, he says, “basically among academics. Surprising as it may seem, it was thanks to this dialogue that most Israeli researchers who were working on their country’s history and who had no links to the radical political organisations, became aware of the version of history held by their Palestinian counterparts. They became aware of the fundamental contradiction between Zionist national ambitions and their enactment at the expense of the local population in Palestine.”

To this we might add that the manipulation of history for political ends is not an exclusively Israeli domain: most often it goes hand in hand with nationalism.

What lessons have the revisionist historians drawn from their diligent working-through of the archives? As regards the broad picture of the balance of power between Jews and Arabs in both 1947 and 1948, their results contradict the generally-held picture of a weak and poorly armed Jewish community in Palestine threatened with extermination by a highly armed and united Arab world - David versus Goliath. Quite the contrary. The revisionists concur in pointing to the many advantages enjoyed by the nascent Jewish state over its enemies: the decomposition of Palestinian society; the divisions in the Arab world and the inferiority of their armed forces (in terms of numbers, training and weaponry, and hence impact); the strategic advantage enjoyed by Israel as a result of its agreement with King Abdullah of Transjordan (in exchange for the West Bank, he undertook not to attack the territory allocated to Israel by the UN); British support for this compromise, together with the joint support of the United States and the Soviet Union; the sympathy of world public opinion and so forth.

This all helps to explain the devastating effectiveness of the Jewish offensives of spring 1948. It also sheds new light on the context in which the mass departure of Palestinians took place. The exodus was divided into two broadly equal waves: one before and one after the decisive turning-point of the declaration of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948 and the intervention of the armies of the neighbouring Arab states on the following day. One can agree that the flight of thousands of well-to-do Palestinians during the first few weeks following the adoption of the UN partition plan - particularly from Haifa and Jaffa - was essentially voluntary. The question is what was the truth of the departures that happened subsequently?

In the opening pages of “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem”, Benny Morris offers the outlines of an overall answer: using a map that shows the 369 Arab towns and villages in Israel (within its 1949 borders), he lists, area by area, the reasons for the departure of the local population (9). In 45 cases he admits that he does not know. The inhabitants of the other 228 localities left under attack by Jewish troops, and in 41 cases they were expelled by military force. In 90 other localities, the Palestinians were in a state of panic following the fall of a neighbouring town or village, or for fear of an enemy attack, or because of rumours circulated by the Jewish army - particularly after the 9 April 1948 massacre of 250 inhabitants of Deir Yassin, where the news of the killings swept the country like wildfire.

By contrast, he found only six cases of departures at the instigation of local Arab authorities. “There is no evidence to show that the Arab states and the AHC wanted a mass exodus or issued blanket orders or appeals to the Palestinians to flee their homes (though in certain areas the inhabitants of specific villages were ordered by Arab commanders or the AHC to leave, mainly for strategic reasons).” ("The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem", p. 129). On the contrary, anyone who fled was actually threatened with “severe punishment”. As for the broadcasts by Arab radio stations allegedly calling on people to flee, a detailed listening to recordings of their programmes of that period shows that the claims were invented for pure propaganda.

Military operations marked by atrocities

In “1948 and After” Benny Morris examines the first phase of the exodus and produces a detailed analysis of a source that he considers basically reliable: a report prepared by the intelligence services of the Israeli army, dated 30 June 1948 and entitled “The emigration of Palestinian Arabs in the period 1/12/1947-1/6/1948”. This document sets at 391,000 the number of Palestinians who had already left the territory that was by then in the hands of Israel, and evaluates the various factors that had prompted their decisions to leave. “At least 55% of the total of the exodus was caused by our (Haganah/IDF) operations.” To this figure, the report’s compilers add the operations of the Irgun and Lehi, which “directly (caused) some 15%... of the emigration”. A further 2% was attributed to explicit expulsion orders issued by Israeli troops, and 1% to their psychological warfare. This leads to a figure of 73% for departures caused directly by the Israelis. In addition, the report attributes 22% of the departures to “fears” and “a crisis of confidence” affecting the Palestinian population. As for Arab calls for flight, these were reckoned to be significant in only 5% of cases...

In short, as Morris puts it, this report “undermines the traditional official Israeli ’explanation’ of a mass flight ordered or ’invited’ by the Arab leadership”. Neither, as he points out, “does [the report] uphold the traditional Arab explanation of the exodus - that the Jews, with premeditation and in a centralised fashion, had systematically waged a campaign aimed at the wholesale expulsion of the native Palestinian population.” However, he says that “the circumstances of the second half of the exodus” - which he estimates as having involved between 300,000 and 400,000 people - “are a different story.”

One example of this second phase was the expulsion of Arabs living in Lydda (present-day Lod) and Ramleh. On 12 July 1948, within the framework of Operation Dani, a skirmish with Jordanian armoured forces served as a pretext for a violent backlash, with 250 killed, some of whom were unarmed prisoners. This was followed by a forced evacuation characterised by summary executions and looting and involving upwards of 70,000 Palestinian civilians - almost 10% of the total exodus of 1947- 49. Similar scenarios were enacted, as Morris shows, in central Galilee, Upper Galilee and the northern Negev, as well as in the post-war expulsion of the Palestinians of Al Majdal (Ashkelon). Most of these operations (with the exception of the latter) were marked by atrocities - a fact which led Aharon Zisling, the minister of agriculture, to tell the Israeli cabinet on 17 November 1948: “I couldn’t sleep all night. I felt that things that were going on were hurting my soul, the soul of my family and all of us here (...) Now Jews too have behaved like Nazis and my entire being has been shaken (10).”

The Israeli government of the time pursued a policy of non- compromise, in order to prevent the return of the refugees “at any price” (as Ben Gurion himself put it), despite the fact that the UN General Assembly had been calling for this since 11 December 1948. Their villages were either destroyed or occupied by Jewish immigrants, and their lands were shared out between the surrounding kibbutzim. The law on “abandoned properties” - which was designed to make possible the seizure of any land belonging to persons who were “absent” - “legalised” this project of general confiscation as of December 1948. Almost 400 Arab villages were thus either wiped off the map or Judaised, as were most of the Arab quarters in mixed towns. According to a report drawn up in 1952, Israel had thus succeeded in expropriating 73,000 rooms in abandoned houses, 7,800 shops, workshops and warehouses, 5 million Palestinian pounds in bank accounts, and - most important of all - 300,000 hectares of land  (11).

In “1948 and After” (chapter 4), Benny Morris deals at greater length with the role played by Yosef Weitz, who was at the time director of the Jewish National Fund’s Lands Department. This man of noted Zionist convictions confided to his diary on 20 December 1940: “It must be clear that there is no room in the country for both people (...) the only solution is a Land of Israel, at least a western Land of Israel without Arabs. There is no room here for compromise. (...) There is no way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighbouring countries(...) Not one village must be left, not one (bedouin) tribe.”

Seven years later, Weitz found himself in a position to put this radical programme into effect. Already, in January 1948, he was orchestrating the expulsion of Palestinians from various parts of the country. In April he proposed - and obtained - the creation of “a body which would direct the Yishuv’s war with the aim of evicting as many Arabs as possible”. This body was unofficial at first, but was formalised at the end of August 1948 into the “Transfer Committee” which supervised the destruction of abandoned Arab villages and/or their repopulation with recent Jewish immigrants, in order to make any return of the refugees impossible. Its role was extended, in July, to take in the creation of Jewish settlements in the border areas.

Israel’s battle to bar the return of Palestinian exiles was also pursued on the diplomatic front. Here, as Henry Laurens noted in a review of the revisionist historians (12), “the opening- up, and the use, of the archives made it possible to revise a number of previously-held positions. Contrary to the widely held view, the Arab leaders were prepared for compromise.” As soon as the war ended, the Arab leadership was trying, within the context of the Lausanne Conference, to arrive at a general settlement based on Arab acceptance of the UN partition plan (Ilan Pappe gives a detailed account of their efforts (13)), in exchange for Israeli acceptance of a right of return for the refugees. Despite international pressure - with the United States to the fore - this enterprise was to founder on the intransigence of the Israeli authorities, particularly once the Jewish state had been admitted to the United Nations.

Despite this extraordinary accumulation of evidence, Benny Morris concludes in his first book that “the Palestinian refugee problem was born of war, not by design, Jewish or Arab.” ("The Birth...", p. 286) His second book offers a more considered approach, in which he recognises that the Palestinian exodus was “a cumulative process, there were interlocking causes, and there was a main precipitator, a coup de grace, in the form of Haganah, Irgun and IDF assault in each locality”. ("1948...", p. 32). This shift of position does not, however, prevent him from continuing to resist any notion of a Jewish expulsion plan, and to exonerate David Ben Gurion, president of the Jewish Agency and subsequently prime minister and defence minister of the newly-created Israeli state.

As Norman G. Finkelstein has highlighted, in a textual study that is as brilliant as it is polemical (14), this twin denial by Benny Morris seems at first sight to contradict what Morris says himself. After all, he himself tells us that “the essence of the [Dalet] plan was the clearing of hostile and potentially hostile forces out of the interior of the prospective territory of the Jewish State, establishing territorial continuity between the major concentrations of Jewish population and securing the Jewish State’s future borders before, and in anticipation of, the Arab invasion.” ("The Birth...", p. 62) And he also recognises that Plan D, while it did not give carte blanche for an expulsion of civilians, was nevertheless “a strategic-ideological anchor and basis for expulsions by front, district, brigade and battalion commanders” for whom it provided “post facto a formal persuasive covering note to explain their actions” (p. 63). Benny Morris contrives to make two seemingly contradictory statements within two pages of each other, namely that “Plan D was not a political blueprint for the expulsion of Palestine’s Arabs” and that “from the beginning of April, there are clear traces of an expulsion policy on both national and local levels”. ("The Birth...", pp. 62 and 64)

The same is true as regards the responsibility or otherwise of David Ben Gurion. Morris makes clear that the prime minister was the originator of the Dalet Plan. In July 1948 we find Ben Gurion again, giving the order for the operations in Lydda and Ramleh: “Expel them!” he told Yigal Allon and Yitzhak Rabin - a section censored out of Rabin’s memoirs, but published thirty years later in the “New York Times” (15). This order, Morris tells us, had not been debated within the Israeli government. In fact, some days previously the Mapam, partner of the ruling Mapai, had obtained from the prime minister an instruction explicitly forbidding the military to carry out expulsion measures... Ben Gurion later attacked the hypocrisy of this Marxist Zionist party for condemning “activities” in which its own militants, Palmah troops and kibbutzniks alike, had also taken part.

In Nazareth, General Chaim Laskov decided to take the official instruction literally. One story has Ben Gurion arriving there, discovering the local population still in situ, and declaring angrily “What are they doing here?” (16) Also in July, but this time in Haifa, we have Ben Gurion as the man behind the scenes in the operation for the “de-localisation” of the 3,500 Arabs still remaining in the town, followed by the partial destruction of the former Arab quarter.

In short, as Morris himself points out, power at that period of Israel’s history resided with Ben Gurion and with him alone. All issues, whether military or civilian, were decided with him, often without the slightest consultation with the government, let alone with the parties that comprised it. In such a situation, the absence from the archives of any formal parliamentary or governmental decision to expel the Palestinians proves nothing. As Morris himself admits, “Ben Gurion always refrained from issuing clear or written expulsion orders; he preferred that his generals ’understand’ what he wanted done. He wished to avoid going down in history as the ’great expeller’” ("The Birth...", pp. 292-3).

The fact that the founder of the State of Israel took advantage of the impressive extent of his powers and worked towards the maximum enlargement of the territory allocated to the Jewish state by the United Nations, and towards reducing its Arab population to a minimum, is a matter of historical fact. Morris devoted an important article (17) to Ben Gurion’s long-term support for the transfer project. As he writes in his preface to “1948 and After...”, “Already from 1937 we find Ben Gurion (and most of the other Zionist leaders) supporting a ’transfer’ solution to the ’Arab problem’ (...) Come 1948, and the confusions and deplacement of war, and we see Ben Gurion quickly grasp the opportunity for ’Judaising’ the emergent Jewish State” ("1948 and After..., p. 33).

Prior to this, he tells us that “the tendency of military commanders to ’nudge’ Palestinians’ flight increased as the war went on. Jewish atrocities - far more widespread than the old histories have let on (there were massacres of Arabs at Ad Dawayima, Eilaboun, Jish, Safsaf, Majd al Kurum, Hule (in Lebanon), Saliha and Sasa, besides Deir Yassin and Lydda and other places) - also contributed significantly to the exodus” ("1948...", p. 22).

The “original sin”

Ilan Pappe, a professor at the University of Haifa, devotes two chapters of his book “The Making of the Arab- Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951” to these issues. Eschewing the caution of Morris’s position, he concludes that “Plan D can be regarded in many respects as a master plan for expulsion. The plan was not conceived out of the blue - expulsion was considered as one of many means for retaliation against Arab attacks on Jewish convoys and settlements; nevertheless, it was also regarded as one of the best means of ensuring the domination of the Jews in the areas captured by the Israeli army” ("The Making...", p. 98).

Furthermore, the actual text of Plan D leaves very little doubt as to the intentions of Ben Gurion and his friends. It spoke of “operations against enemy population centres located inside or near our defensive system in order to prevent them from being used as bases by an active armed force. These operations can be carried out in the following manner: either by destroying villages (by setting fire to them, by blowing them up, and by planting mines in their debris), and especially of those population centres which are difficult to control continuously; or by mounting combing and control operations according to the following guidelines: encirclement of the village, conducting a search inside it. In case of resistance, the armed force must be wiped out and the population expelled outside the borders of the state” ("The Making...", p. 92).

For their achievements, and despite their limitations, we should applaud the courage of Israel’s new historians. This is not just any old page of history on which they have worked to shed light. What they have opened to public view is the “original sin” of the state of Israel. Is it acceptable for the survivors of Hitler’s genocide to have the right to live in a state of their own, and for this right to exclude the right of the sons and daughters of Palestine to live similarly at peace in their own country? Fifty years after the event, the time is long overdue to bring an end to this logic that has generated so much war, and to find a way for the two peoples to coexist. At the same time, we should not draw a veil over the historical origins of the tragedy.

(1) This article was the basis of a contribution to a colloquium on “The History of Contemporary Palestine” held at the Institut du Monde Arabe on 13 June 1997. It is being developed into a book to be published by Editions de l’Atelier in spring 1998.

(2) In Middle East Forum, November 1961, reprinted with a new commentary in the Journal of Palestine Studies, Beirut, vol. XVIII, no. 69, 1988.

(3) Elias Sanbar, in “Palestine 1948. L’Expulsion”, “Revue d’études palestiniennes, Paris, 1984.

(4) Their most important publications are: Simha Flapan, “The Birth of Israel, Myth and Realities”, Pantheon Books, New York, 1987; Tom Segev, “1949. The First Israelis”, Free Press MacMillan, New York and London, 1986; Avi Schlaim, “Collusion across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement and the Partition of Palestine”, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1988; Ilan Pappe, “Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1948-1951”, MacMillan, New York, 1988 and “The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947- 1951”, I.B. Tauris, London, 1992; and Benny Morris, “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949”, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1987, and “1948 and After. Israel and the Palestinians”, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1990.

(5) The probing is obviously not limited to the first Arab- Israeli war. It also involves the attitude of the Zionist leadership to genocide (see in particular Tom Segev’s “The Seventh Million”, published in France by Liana Levi, Paris, 1992), and the nature of Jewish settlement during the period of the British mandate. Similarly, Benny Morris has pursued his exploration of the archives in order to shed light on Israeli expansionism during the 1950s (ÒIsrael’s Border Wars: Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation and the Countdown to the Suez War”, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1993) It also extends into other disciplines apart from historiography, particularly to sociology, and especially concerning the situation of Oriental Jews in Israeli society, from the early days to the present.

(6) See particularly Shabtai Teveth, “The Palestinian Refugee Problem and its Origins”, Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 26, no. 2, 1990, and Ephraim Karsh, “Fabricating Israeli History: The “New Historians””, Frank Cass, London, 1997.

(7) Nur Masalha,”’1948 and After’ revisited", Journal of Palestine Studies, no. 96, vol. XXIV, no. 4, summer 1995.

(8) Ilan Pappe, “La critique post-sioniste en Israel”, La Revue d’études palestiniennes, no. 12, summer 1997.

(9) “The Birth...” op. cit., pp. 14-18. A careful comparison of the text of the book with the tables showing village by village the principal reasons for the exodus reveals a clear - and surprising - underestimation in the tables of the extent of actual expulsions.

(10) Tom Segev, op. cit., p. 26.

(11) Quoted by Simha Flapan, op. cit., p. 107.

(12) Henry Laurens, “Travaux récents sur l’histoire du premier conflit israélo-arabe”, Maghreb-Machrek, Paris, no. 132, April-June 1991.

(13) “The Making...”, op. cit., chapters 8-10. See also Jean-Yves Ollier, “1949: la conférence de Lausanne ou les limites du refus arabe”, Revue d’études palestiniennes, no. 35, spring 1990.

(14) Norman G. Finkelstein, “Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict”, Verso, London and New York, 1995, chapter 3.

(15) New York Times, 23 October 1979.

(16) This story was told by Ben Gurion’s biographer, Michel Bar-Zohar, and was reproduced in the Israeli daily Hadashot, Tel Aviv, 19 October 1986.

(17) Benny Morris, “Remarques sur l’historiographie sioniste de l’idée d’un transfert de populations en Palestine dans les années 1937-1944”, in “Les nouveaux enjeux de l’historiographie israélienne”, ed. Florence Heymann, Information paper, Centre de recherche français de Jérusalem, no. 12, December 1995. On the contradictions of Mapam’s position, see the first chapter of “1948 and After”

800,000 Refugees created over a period of twenty months

29 November: The General Assembly of the United Nations adopts, with the required two thirds majority, a plan to partition Palestine into a Jewish state, an Arab state, and an international zone involving Jerusalem and the Holy Places.

January: Volunteer units organised as the Arab Liberation Army of Assistance (ALA) entered Palestine.

End of March: First deliveries of Czechoslovak arms to the Jewish forces. The Dalet Plan is put into operation.

9 April: Deir Yassin massacre.

18 April: The Haganah take Tiberias; four days later they take Haifa.

10 May: Safed is taken, followed by Jaffa two days later.

14 May: End of the British Mandate. Declaration of the State of Israel. De facto recognition of the new state by the United States. The armies of five Arab countries enter Palestine.

17 May: De jure recognition of Israel by the Soviet Union. The Haganah take St Jean d’Acre. The following day Egyptian troops take Beersheba.

28 May: The Jewish quarter of Jerusalem capitulates.

11 June-8 July: First truce.

9-17 July: Israel takes Lydda, Ramleh and Nazareth.

18 July-15 October: Second truce.

17 September: Assassination of the Swedish UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte by an extremist Zionist commando unit.

15 October: The Israeli army breaks the truce, and begins an offensive in the Negev.

11 December: The General Assembly of the United Nations calls for the refugees to have the right of return.

22 December: Renewed fighting between Egypt and Israel. Israel completes its conquest of the Negev. Israel withdraws from northern Sinai on 7 January 1949, but only after a threat of direct British intervention.

24 February: Armistice between Israel and Egypt.

10 March: Israeli troops take Um Rashrash (Eilat).

23 March: Armistice between Israel and Lebanon.

3 April: Armistice between Israel and Transjordan.

11 May: Israel is admitted to the United Nations.

12 May: Israel and the Arab states sign the protocols of the Lausanne Conference.

20 July: Armistice between Israel and Syria.

8 December: Establishment of the United Nations organisation for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

Plan Dalet (Hebrew: תוכנית ד'‎, Tokhnit dalet) was a plan worked out by the Haganah in Mandatory Palestine in March 1948. Its name was from the letter Dalet (ד), the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

Its purpose is much debated. The plan was a set of guidelines to take control of Mandatory Palestine, declare a Jewish state, and defend its borders and people, including the Jewish population outside of the borders, 'before, and in anticipation of' the invasion by regular Arab armies.[1][2] According to the Israeli Yehoshafat Harkabi, "Plan Dalet" called for the conquest of Arab towns and villages inside and along the borders of the area allocated to the proposed Jewish State - according to the UN Partition Plan.[3] In case of resistance, the population of conquered villages was to be expelled outside the borders of the Jewish state. If no resistance was met, the residents could stay put, under military rule.[qt 1][4][5][6]

The intent of Plan Dalet is subject to much controversy, with historians on one side asserting that it was entirely defensive, while other historians assert that the plan aimed at the expulsion, sometimes called an ethnic cleansing, on the grounds that this was an integral part of a planned strategy.


Since 1945, the Haganah designed and implemented four general military plans, ultimately leading to the creation of Israel and the dispossession of the Palestinians:[7][unreliable source?][citation needed]

  • Plan Aleph (Plan A), drawn up in February 1945 to complement the political aim of a unilateral declaration of independence. It was designed to suppress Palestinian Arab resistance to the Zionist take-over of parts of Palestine.[8]
  • Plan Bet (Plan B), produced in September 1945,[9] emerged in May 1947 and designed to replace Plan Aleph in the context of new developments such as Britain's submission of the problem of Palestine to the United Nations and growing opposition from surrounding Arab states to the Zionist partition plan.[citation needed]
  • Plan Gimel (Plan C), also known as "May Plan", produced in May 1946,[9] emerged in November/December 1947, in the wake of the UN Partition Plan. It was designed to enhance Zionist military and police mobilisation and enable action as needed.[dubious– discuss][10][11][12]
  • Plan Dalet (Plan D), of March 1948, is the most noteworthy. Guided by a series of specific operational plans, the broad outlines of which were considered as early as 1944, Plan Dalet was drawn up to expand Jewish-held areas beyond those allocated to the proposed Jewish State in the UN Partition Plan. Its overall objective was to seize as much territory as possible[dubious– discuss] in advance of the termination of the British Mandate — when the Zionist leaders planned to declare their state.[11][12]

On November 29, 1947, the UN voted to approve the Partition Plan for Palestine for ending the British Mandate and creating an Arab state and a Jewish state. In the immediate aftermath of the United Nations' approval of the Partition plan, the Jewish community expressed joy, while the Arab community expressed discontent.[13][14][qt 2] On the day after the vote, a spate of Arab attacks left at least eight Jews dead, one in Tel Aviv by sniper fire, and seven in ambushes on civilian buses that were claimed to be retaliations for a Lehi raid ten days earlier.[15] Shooting, stoning, and rioting continued[dubious– discuss]apace in the following days. Fighting began almost as soon as the plan was approved, beginning with the Arab Jerusalem Riots of 1947. Soon after, violence broke out and became more and more prevalent. Murders, reprisals, and counter-reprisals came fast on each other's heels, resulting in dozens of victims killed on both sides in the process. The sanguinary impasse persisted as no force intervened to put a stop to the escalating cycles of violence.[dubious– discuss]

From January onward, operations became increasingly militarized, with the intervention of a number of regiments of the Arab Liberation Army (consisting of volunteers from Arab countries) inside Palestine, each active in a variety of distinct sectors around the different coastal towns. They consolidated their presence in Galilee and Samaria.[16]Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni came from Egypt with several hundred men of the Army of the Holy War. Having recruited a few thousand volunteers, al-Husayni organised the blockade of the 100,000 Jewish residents of Jerusalem.[17] To counter this, the Yishuv authorities tried to supply the Jews of the city with food by using convoys of up to 100 armoured vehicles, but the operation became more and more impractical as the number of casualties in the relief convoys surged. By March, Al-Hussayni's tactic, sometimes called "The War of the Roads",[18] had paid off. Almost all of Haganah's armoured vehicles had been destroyed, the blockade was in full operation, and the Haganah had lost more than 100 troops.[19] According to Benny Morris the situation for those who dwelt in the Jewish settlements in the highly isolated Negev and North of Galilee was equally critical.[20] According to Ilan Pappé in early March the Yishuv's security leadership did not seem to regard the overall situation as particularly troubling, but instead was busy finalising a master plan.[21]

This situation caused the USA to withdraw their support for the Partition plan,[22] thus encouraging the Arab League to believe that the Palestinians, reinforced by the Arab Liberation Army, could put an end to partition. The British, meanwhile, decided on the 7 February 1948, to support the annexation of the Arab part of Palestine by Transjordan.[23]


In 1947 David Ben-Gurion reorganised Haganah and made conscription obligatory. Every Jewish man and woman in the country had to receive military training. Military equipment was procured from stockpiles from the Second World War and from Czechoslovakia and was brought in Operation Balak. There is some disagreement among historians about the precise authors of Plan Dalet. According to some,[18][24] it was the result of the analysis of Yigael Yadin, at that time the temporary head of the Haganah, after Ben-Gurion invested him with the responsibility to come up with a plan in preparation for the announced intervention of the Arab states. According to Ilan Pappé the plan was conceived by the "consultancy", a group of about a dozen military and security figures and specialists on Arab affairs, under the guidance of Ben-Gurion.[21] It was finalised and sent to Haganah units in early March 1948. The plan consisted of a general part and operational orders for the brigades, which specified which villages should be targeted and other specific missions.[25] The general section of the plan was also sent to the Yishuv's political leaders.[26]


In this plan the Haganah also started the transformation from an underground organization into a regular army. The reorganization included the formation of brigades and front commands. The stated goals included in addition to the reorganization, gaining control of the areas of the planned Jewish state as well as areas of Jewish settlements outside its borders. The control would be attained by fortifying strongholds in the surrounding areas and roads, conquering Arab villages close to Jewish settlements and occupying British bases and police stations (from which the British were withdrawing).

The introduction of the plan states:[4]

a) The objective of this plan is to gain control of the areas of the Hebrew state and defend its borders. It also aims at gaining control of the areas of Jewish settlements and concentrations which are located outside the borders (of the Hebrew state) against regular, semi-regular, and small forces operating from bases outside or inside the state.

Later on the plan states:

f) Generally, the aim of this plan is not an operation of occupation outside the borders of the Hebrew state. However, concerning enemy bases lying directly close to the borders which may be used as springboards for infiltration into the territory of the state, these must be temporarily occupied and searched for hostiles according to the above guidelines, and they must then be incorporated into our defensive system until operations cease.

According to David Tal,

The strategy called for the fortification and stabilization of a continuous Jewish-controlled line within the areas of the designated Jewish State and along its putative borders, and for the harassment of, and interference with, the Arab forces as they moved in. The success of this strategy depended on three elements: {'}cleansing{'} the area along the Jewish States's borders of an Arab presence; fortifying the Jewish settlements along the line of advance of the Arab column; and {'}hit-and-run{'} raids against the Arab troops as they advanced.[27]


The plan section 3, under (b) Consolidation of Defense Systems and Fortifications calls for the occupation of police stations, the control of government installations, and the protection of secondary transportation arteries. Part 4 under this heading includes the following controversial paragraphs:

Mounting operations against enemy population centers located inside or near our defensive system in order to prevent them from being used as bases by an active armed force. These operations can be divided into the following categories:
Destruction of villages (setting fire to, blowing up, and planting mines in the debris), especially those population centers which are difficult to control continuously.
Mounting search and control operations according to the following guidelines: encirclement of the village and conducting a search inside it. In the event of resistance, the armed force must be destroyed and the population must be expelled outside the borders of the state.
The villages which are emptied in the manner described above must be included in the fixed defensive system and must be fortified as necessary.
In the absence of resistance, garrison troops will enter the village and take up positions in it or in locations which enable complete tactical control. The officer in command of the unit will confiscate all weapons, wireless devices, and motor vehicles in the village. In addition, he will detain all politically suspect individuals. After consultation with the [Jewish] political authorities, bodies will be appointed consisting of people from the village to administer the internal affairs of the village. In every region, a [Jewish] person will be appointed to be responsible for arranging the political and administrative affairs of all [Arab] villages and population centers which are occupied within that region.

The paragraph (g) Counterattacks Inside and Outside the Borders of the State inter alia states:

Counterattacks will generally proceed as follows: a force the size of a battalion, on average, will carry out a deep infiltration and will launch concentrated attacks against population centers and enemy bases with the aim of destroying them along with the enemy force positioned there.


Plan Dalet was implemented from the start of April onward[citation needed]. This marked the beginning of the second stage of the war in which, according to Benny Morris, the Haganah passed from the defensive to the offensive.[28]


The first operation, named Nachshon,[qt 3] consisted of lifting the blockade on Jerusalem. 1500 men from Haganah's Givati brigade and Palmach's Harel brigade conducted sorties to free up the route to the city between 5 April and 20 April. The operation was successful, and enough foodstuffs to last 2 months were trucked into Jerusalem for distribution to the Jewish population.[29]However,"Plan D" had not yet begun during Operation Nachshon.[qt 3][not in citation given]

The success of the operation was assisted by the death of Al-Hussayni in combat. During this time, and independently of Haganah or the framework of Plan Dalet, irregular troops from Irgun and Lehi formations massacred a number of Arabs at Deir Yassin, an event that, though publicly deplored and criticized by the principal Jewish authorities, had a deep impact on the morale of the Palestinian population.

At the same time, April 4–14, the first large-scale operation of the Arab Liberation Army ended in a "débâcle", having been roundly defeated at Mishmar HaEmek,[30] coinciding with the loss of their Druze allies through defection.[31]

Within the framework of the establishment of Jewish territorial continuity foreseen by Plan Dalet, the forces of Haganah, Palmach and Irgun intended to conquer mixed zones. Tiberias, Haifa, Safed, Beisan, Jaffa and Acre fell. However, "Plan D" had not yet begun at that time.[qt 4] Palestinian society was shaken, resulting in the flight of more than 250,000 Palestinians.[32]

The British had, at that time, essentially withdrawn their troops. The situation moved the leaders of the neighboring Arab states to intervene, but their preparations had not finalised, and they could not assemble sufficient forces to turn the tide of the war. Many Palestinian hopes lay with the Arab Legion of Transjordan's monarch, King Abdullah I, but he had no intention of creating a Palestinian-run state, since he hoped to annex as much of the territory of the British Mandate of Palestine as he could.

In preparation for the offensive, Haganah successfully launched Operations Yiftah[33] and Ben-'Ami[34] to secure the Jewish settlements of Galilee, and Operation Kilshon, which created a united front around Jerusalem.


[citation needed]

OperationStart dateObjectiveLocationResult
Operation Nachshon1 AprilCarve out a corridor connecting Tel Aviv to JerusalemTerritories allocated to future Arab StateSuccessful
Operation Harel15 AprilCarve out a corridor connecting Tel Aviv To JerusalemOperation centered near Latrun in the territories allocated to the future Arab StateFailed
Operation Bi'ur Hametz21 AprilCapture of HaifaTerritories allocated to the future Jewish StateSuccessful
Operation Yevusi27 AprilBreak the siege on JerusalemCorpus separatumFailed
Operation Hametz27 AprilCapture of JaffaTerritories allocated to the future Arab StateSuccessful
Operation Yiftach28 AprilConsolidate control of all the eastern GalileeTerritories allocated to the future Jewish StateSuccessful
Operation Matateh3 MayClear out Arab forces between Tiberias and eastern GalileeTerritories allocated to the future Jewish StateSuccessful
Operation Maccabi7 MayClear out Arab forces near Latrun lo leave Jerusalem blocusTerritories allocated to the future Arab StateFailed
Operation Gideon11 MayClear out Arab forces in the Beit She'an valley areaTerritories allocated to the future Jewish StateSuccessful
Operation Barak12 MayClear out Arab forces in the northern NegevTerritories allocated to the future Jewish StateStopped because of Egypt invasion
Operation Ben'Ami14 MayClear out Arab forces in Acre and West GalileeTerritories allocated to the future Arab StateSuccessful
Operation Kilshon14 MayClear out Arab forces in the New City of JerusalemCorpus separatumSuccessful
Operation Shfifon14 MayBreak the siege on the Jewish Quarter in the old city of JerusalemCorpus separatumFailed


According to Benny Morris the Plan's execution lasted about eight weeks[dubious– discuss], beginning April 2.[35] In these weeks the Yishuv's position changed dramatically. Many Arab leaders left the country and local leadership collapsed.[citation needed] On the Jewish side, the number of those killed during the execution of the plan was 1,253, of which 500 were civilians.[citation needed] On the Arab side, Jewish counter-attacks and offensives precipitated a mass exodus of 250,000–300,000 people.[36] According to Benny Morris this "massive demographic upheaval ... propelled the Arab states closer to an invasion about which they were largely unenthusiastic".[37]

Controversy about intent

The intent of Plan Dalet is subject to much controversy, with historians on the one extreme asserting that it was entirely defensive, and historians on the other extreme asserting that the plan aimed at maximum conquest and expulsion.[undue weight?– discuss]

  • According to the French historian Henry Laurens, the importance of the military dimension of plan Dalet becomes clear by comparing the operations of the Jordanian and the Egyptian armies. The ethnical homogeneity of the coastal area, obtained by the expulsions of the Palestinians eased the halt of the Egyptian advance, while Jewish Jerusalem, located in an Arab population area, was encircled by Jordanian forces.[38]

According to The Oxford Handbook of Genocide Studies, whilst there may be controversy whether Plan Dalet was a centralized plan of ethnic cleansing, it could as well be a case of Haganah forces discovering that they could carry out ethnic cleansing at the local and regional level, as their offensive drove out large numbers of Arabs.[39]

Historians asserting that the plan aimed at maximum conquest and expulsion

As is witnessed by the Haganah's Plan Dalet, the Jewish leadership was determined to link the envisaged Jewish state with the Jerusalem corpus separatum. But the corpus separatum lay deep in Arab territory, in the middle of the envisaged Palestinian state, so this linking up could only be done militarily.

Khalidi calls Plan Dalet a "Master Plan for the Conquest of Palestine". He points to the Zionist ideas of transfer and of a Jewish state in all of Palestine, and to the offensive character of the military operations of the Zionists as the main proof of his interpretation.[25]

... this ... blueprint spelled it out clearly and unambiguously: the Palestinians had to go ... The aim of the plan was in fact the destruction of both rural and urban areas of Palestine.[40]

Pappé distinguishes between the general section of Plan Dalet and the operational orders given to the troops. According to Pappé the general section of the plan, which was distributed to politicians, was misguiding as to the real intentions of the Haganah. The real plan was handed down to the brigade commanders "not as vague guidelines, but as clear-cut operational orders for action". Along with the general section, "each brigade commander received a list of the villages or neighborhoods that had to be occupied, destroyed, and their inhabitants expelled".[41][undue weight?– discuss]

Historians asserting that the plan was defensive

  • In his book on the birth of the Palestinian refugee problem Israeli historian Benny Morris discusses the relevance of the idea of "population transfer" in Zionist thinking. Morris concludes that there was Zionist support for transfer "in the 1930s and early 1940s", and that while this "transfer thinking" had conditioned the Yishuv's hearts and minds to accept it as natural and inevitable when it happened, it "was not tantamount to pre-planning, and did not issue in the production of a policy or master plan of expulsion; the Yishuv and its military forces did not enter the 1948 War, which was initiated by the Arab side, with a policy or plan for expulsion".[42]

On the intent of Plan Dalet Morris writes:

The essence of the plan was the clearing of hostile and potentially hostile forces out of the interior of the territory of the prospective Jewish State, establishing territorial continuity between the major concentrations of Jewish population and securing the future State's borders before, and in anticipation of, the invasion [by Arab states]. The Haganah regarded almost all the villages as actively or potentially hostile.[qt 4][43]
The plan was neither understood nor used by the senior field officers as a blanket instruction for the expulsion of 'the Arabs'. But, in providing for the expulsion or destruction of villages that had resisted or might threaten the Yishuv, it constituted a strategic-doctrinal and carte blanche for expulsions by front, brigade, district and battalion commanders (who in each case argued military necessity) and it gave commanders, post facto, formal, persuasive cover for their actions. However, during April–June, relatively few commanders faced the moral dilemma of having to carry out the expulsion clauses. Townspeople and villagers usually left their homes before or during battle, and Haganah rarely had to decide about, or issue, expulsion orders....".[qt 4][44]
Although it provided for counter-attacks, Plan Dalet was a defensive scheme and its goals were (1) protection of the borders of the upcoming Jewish state according to the partition line; (2) securing its territorial continuity in the face of invasion attempts; (3) safeguarding freedom of movement on the roads and (4) enabling continuation of essential daily routines.

Gelber rejects what he calls the "Palestinian-invented" version of Plan Dalet.[45] Gelber says: "The text clarified unequivocally that expulsion concerned only those villages that would fight against the Hagana and resist occupation, and not all Arab hamlets".[qt 1]

  • Military historian David Tal writes, "the plan did provide the conditions for the destruction of Palestinian villages and the deportation of the dwellers; this was not the reason for the plan's composition", and that "its aim was to ensure full control over the territory assigned to the Jews by the partition resolution, thus placing the Haganah in the best possible strategic position to face an Arab invasion".[46]

See also

  1. ^David Tal (2004). War in Palestine, 1948: strategy and diplomacy. Psychology Press. pp. 165–. 
  2. ^Benny Morris. The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, Benny Morris, Cambridge University Press, pg 155. 
  3. ^Yehoshafat Harkabi (June 1974). Arab attitudes to Israel. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 366–. ISBN 978-0-470-35203-8. Retrieved 12 April 2011. 
  4. ^ abMidEast Web, Plan Daleth (Plan D)
  5. ^Yoav Gelber (January 2006). Palestine, 1948: war, escape and the emergence of the Palestinian refugee problem. Sussex Academic Press. pp. 98–. ISBN 978-1-84519-075-0. Retrieved 14 April 2011. 
  6. ^Ten years of research into the 1947-49 war - The expulsion of the Palestinians re-examined. By Dominique Vidal. Le Monde diplomatique. December 1997.
  7. ^Ruling Palestine: A History of the Legally Sanctioned Jewish-Israeli Seizure of Land and Housing in Palestine[permanent dead link]. The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions - COHRE / Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights, 2005. ISBN 92-95004-29-9, p. 27.
  8. ^Safty, Adel. Might Over Right: How The Zionists Took Over Palestine. Garnet Publishing, 2012.
  9. ^ abJewish Virtual Library. Plan Dalet (March 10, 1948)
  10. ^The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, by Ilan Pappé. Oneworld Publications, 2006.
  11. ^ abDavidson, Lawrence Cultural Genocide. "Israel's 'War of Independence' - Ethnic Cleansing in Practice", p.74-75. Rutgers University Press, 2012.
  12. ^ abKhalidi, W. "Plan Dalet: master plan for the conquest of Palestine", J. Palestine Studies 18 (1), 1988, p. 4-33 (published earlier in Middle East Forum, November 1961)
  13. ^"Palestine Arabs Loot, Kill, Burn; Jews Retaliating". Windsor Daily Star. Windsor, Ontario, Canada. United Press. December 2, 1947. pp. 1–2. Retrieved July 2, 2012.  
  14. ^"Urges Arabs to be Ready". Windsor Daily Star. Associated Press. December 2, 1947. p. 1. Retrieved July 2, 2012.  
  15. ^Morris (2008), p. 76
  16. ^Yoav Gelber (2006), pp. 51–56
  17. ^Dominique Lapierre et Larry Collins (1971), chap. 7, pp. 131–153
  18. ^ abSelwyn Ilan Troen; Noah Lucas (1995). Israel: the first decade of independence. SUNY Press. pp. 405–. ISBN 978-0-7914-2259-5. Retrieved 20 April 2011. 
  19. ^Benny Morris (2003), p. 163
  20. ^Morris, 2004, p. 163
  21. ^ abPappé, 2006, p. 81
  22. ^Devorah Hakohen (2003). Immigrants in turmoil: mass immigration to Israel and its repercussions in the 1950s and after. Syracuse University Press. pp. 13–. ISBN 978-0-8156-2969-6. Retrieved 20 April 2011. 
  23. ^Henry Laurens (2005), p. 83
  24. ^Larry Collins; Dominique Lapierre (4 September 2007). O Jerusalem!. Simon and Schuster. pp. 60–. ISBN 978-1-4165-5627-5. Retrieved 20 April 2011. 
  25. ^ abKhalidi, 1988
  26. ^Pappé, 2006, p. 83
  27. ^Tal, 2004, p. 165
  28. ^Morris, 2008, p. 116
  29. ^Dominique Lapierre et Larry Collins (1971), pp. 369–381
  30. ^Benny Morris (2003), pp. 242–243
  31. ^Benny Morris (2003), p. 242
  32. ^Henry Laurens (2005), pp. 85–86
  33. ^Benny Morris (2003), pp. 248–252
  34. ^Benny Morris (2003), pp. 252–254
  35. ^Morris, 2004, p. 165
  36. ^Morris, 2004, pp. 262–263
  37. ^Morris, 2004, p. 263
  38. ^Henry Laurens, Paix et guerre au Moyen-Orient, Armand Colin, 2005, p. 92.
  39. ^
  40. ^Pappé, 2006, pp. 86–126, xii
  41. ^Pappé, 2006, pp. 82–83
  42. ^Morris, 2004, pp. 5–6, 60
  43. ^Morris, 2004, 'The Birth ... Revisited', p. 164
  44. ^Morris, 2004, 'The Birth ... Revisited', p. 165
  45. ^Gelber, 2006, pp. 303–306
  46. ^Tal, 2004, p. 87



  • W. Khalidi, "Plan Dalet: master plan for the conquest of Palestine", J. Palestine Studies 18 (1), 1988, p. 4-33 (published earlier in Middle East Forum, November 1961)
  • Walid Khalidi - All That Remains. ISBN 0887283063
  • Shabtai Teveth, Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs: From Peace to War, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1985
  • Ilan Pappé, The ethnic cleansing of Palestine, Oxford, Oneworld, 2006
  • Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, Cambridge University Press, 2004
  • Benny Morris, 1948: A history of the first Arab–Israeli war. Yale University Press, 2008
  • Yoav Gelber, Palestine 1948: War, Escape And The Emergence Of The Palestinian Refugee problem, 2nd ed., Brighton, Sussex Academic Press, 2006
  • David Tal, War in Palestine 1948: strategy and diplomacy, Routledge, London, 2004
  • J. C. Bosma, "Plan Dalet in the context of the contradictions of Zionism", Holy Land Studies 9 (2), 2010, p. 209-227
  • Rosemarie M. Esber, Under The Cover of War. The Zionist Expulsion of the Palestinians, Arabicus, 2009, p. 43 ; pp. 179–182.

See also

External links

Zones controlled by Yishuv before and after the implementation of the Plan Dalet.
  1. ^ abcYoav Gelber (1 January 2006). Palestine 1948: War, Escape And The Emergence Of The Palestinian Refugee Problem. Sussex Academic Press. p. 306. ISBN 978-1-84519-075-0. Retrieved 13 July 2013.  
  2. ^Benny Morris (2008). 1948: a history of the first Arab-Israeli war. Yale University Press. p. 50. Retrieved 13 July 2013.  
  3. ^ abBenny Morris (2008). 1948: a history of the first Arab-Israeli war. Yale University Press. p. 116. Retrieved 13 July 2013.  
  4. ^ abcBenny Morris (2008). 1948: a history of the first Arab-Israeli war. Yale University Press. p. 119. Retrieved 13 July 2013.  

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