ISRAEL Yigal Allon, Native Son: A Biography, by Anita Shapira. Trans. by Evelyn Abel. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007. x + 322 pages. Notes to p. 361. Bibl. to p. 367. Index to p. 384. $49.95.
Reviewed by Ylana Miller
Yigal Allon, an important military leader during the War of 1948, is more frequently known today for what came to be called the Allon Plan for settlement in the West Bank, formulated in the immediate aftermath of the War of 1967. Although he had continued to fill a number of public roles from 1949 to 1967, Allon's political ambitions were frustrated on various occasions and he failed to get the widespread recognition accorded figures such as Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Rabin, and Ariel Sharon, among others. This biography thus makes a significant contribution to the historical record of Israel's development both in its tracing of Allon's trajectory as an individual and in its linking that trajectory to the particularities of his time. This is largely a biography exploring political and military rather than personal development; yet it seeks, sometimes with significant subtlety, to suggest the outlines of emotional dynamics also linked to time and place as well as to generational patterns.
Yigal Allon was born in 1918 to a family that had arrived in Palestine in 1890. Professor Anita Shapira, a noted scholar of Israeli history, vividly describes the challenges facing the family in the years before and during World War I. The bulk of this biography, however, traces the parallel evolution of Yigal Allon's personal integration into the military forces of the Yishuv (Jewish settlement in Palestine) and the broader institutional/ political history resulting in the emergence of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in 1948. Notable throughout is a series of clashes that can be understood as contributing to personal identity, to the creation of social and political ties, and ultimately to aspects of the Israeli state that emerged in 1948. In Shapira's telling, Allon was instrumental in conflicts over land and settlement with PICA (Palestine Jewish Colonization Association), in a variety of conflicts with local Arab communities, in struggles with British forces even during periods in which there were common interests, and eventually in significant differences with the political leadership of the Yishuv. At the same time, Allon's development came to be closely identified with the emergence of the Palmach, a standing military force that was integrated with the kibbutz movement in the 1940s and gave rise to a sufficiently coherent body for David Ben-Gurion ultimately to view it as a threat. …