Palestinian and Arab intransigence is often blamed as the main reason for the perpetuation of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. However, Israel has its own red lines. Refugee return and the unwillingness of Israel to return to the borders recommended in the UN Partition Plan were the two main obstacles for Israelis. This position made anything but the partition of the territory into two states with no return of refugees the only acceptable solution for the majority of Jewish Israelis. The victory in the Six Day War in 1967 turned that preference into an absolute. The new options were:
- A one-state solution in which the refugees returned; all captured territory was returned to the Arabs and the status quo ante before 1948 was re-established;
- A two-state solution based on either a) the UN partition plan, or b) a return to the Green Line of 1949, return of refugees, opposition to the destruction of Arab villages as well as negating the settlement of Jews on that land;
- A two-state solution in which Israel returned de jure to the Green Line but de facto built a secure larger and defensible perimeter around the state, retained the Old City and refused to admit the refugees;
- A one-state solution advocated by a small minority on the right that entailed annexing all the territory captured;
- A binational state;
- A confederation (economic and political) of two independent states.
Number 1 was the dominant position of the Palestinian leadership. Number 2 was the preference of a minority of moderate Palestinians and the option of Mapam (an acronym of Mifleget HaPoalim HaMeuhedet lit, the United Workers Party) and the far Left. The Labour Party favoured the third option. Likud preferred the fourth. A few utopians favoured the fifth and some Israeli intellectuals advocated the sixth. While the Palestinian leadership largely held onto a different option altogether (number 1 or 2 (a) above), in effect, Israelis were left debating the other different options for peace among themselves.
Mapam had been part of Ben-Gurion’s coalition in 1948 as the second largest party with 19 seats. Then it supported both Jewish-Arab coexistence and refugee return. The subsequent history of Israel witnessed the withering away of this Leftist Party as well as a gradual retreat from its outreach to the Arabs. That dissolution began in 1948 with the split in the Kibbutz movement when 5 of 27 proposed new settlements were built on captured Palestinian territory. Mapam conceded to those settlements on previously-owned Palestinian land, but with one condition – there had to be sufficient land remaining to resettle the returning Palestinian refugees. However, Mapan soon agreed to conditions being placed on Palestinian refugee return as well – they agreed to no return until the state of war ended and, even then, only when returnees pledged to honour that peace.
Mapam was not part of the next coalition when the number of seats it held fell to 7 then rose to 9 when it regained some favour with Prague Spring in 1953 when it became disillusioned with the Soviet Union. By joining with other far Left parties, it retained single digit numbers, but gradually diminished both in status, strength and position as the Labour Party grew into the ruling party based on an Israeli-defensive posture. Further, while Kibbutz and Mapam members were the leading officers in the Israeli army in 1948, even that position for party members diminished gradually over the years.
Yigal Allon had been a commander of Palmach, leader of the forces that shelled the Altalena when it tried to land and deliver its shipment of arms exclusively to the Irgun. He had been a general in the new IDF and one of the leaders of Mapam. After the end of the Six Day War, in July he presented and got acceptance for the idea of new defensive borders on Arab lands with pioneering kibbutzim in the advance as security settlements – the Allon Plan. Supposedly, the plan was intended, not to upset the then demographic balance, but to guard that new defensive border. That meant that the position safeguarding Arab-owned land and welcoming the return of refugees had become rhetorical only. At the same time, Allon called for the establishment of Palestinian autonomy with economic, cultural and military ties to Israel. In 1967, after the Israeli victory, Allon proposed annexing Gaza and transferring the refugees there to Jordan.
In the Allon Plan, Israeli sovereignty was to be extended beyond the Green Line with a 10-15 km. wide strip along the Jordan River and the Dead Sea and to include the Latrun salient, Gush Etzion and East Jerusalem within Israel. He also initiated the rehabilitation of the Old City and the creation of settlements in east Jerusalem – beginning with French Hill adjacent to the Hebrew University Mount Scopus campus.
The settlements along the Jordan River were initiated by 20 fortified settlements (nahals), of which three had already been established in the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War. There would also be an upper Jericho and an upper Hebron settlement. The total population of Palestinians in the area to be annexed was only 20,000. 600,000 was the estimated population of the rest of the West Bank.
That meant incorporating one-third of the West Bank into Israel. The only difference between the Allon Plan and subsequent versions endorsed by the Establishment Right was the creation of a ream of settlements by the Right and expanding the land to be annexed by Israel to the whole of Area C of the Oslo Accords, that is, to two-thirds of the West Bank. Further, Allon opposed returning the balance of the land to Jordan and instead favoured a two-state solution west of the Jordan River. The only major change that took place since the Allon Plan of 1967 was the shrinking of the territory of the land available for the Palestinian state. Hence, the charge of creeping annexation.
For example, that Palestinian territory remaining was divided into three parts – Gaza, a rump around Hebron and a larger one around Nablus in the north. Thus, while the Palestinians demanded a return to the Green Line, the core debate in Israel was over how much of the West Bank was to be incorporated into the Jewish State, initially primarily for defensive purposes, but increasingly to satisfy demographic goals. In Gaza, there was the issue of what to do with the Palestinian refugee population from southern Israel, a population that had grown to 200,000. It was proposed that they be resettled in Jordan in return for granting access by Jordan to the Haifa and Ashkelon ports.
In 1968, the CIA presented its intelligence analysis of the Allon Plan for the White House and the State Department. As it summarized the Allon Plan, it proposed a partition of the West Bank, “an Israeli Security Zone on the West Bank and an Arab Sector that includes the most populous areas of the West Bank…administered as an “autonomous” Palestine entity or returned outright to Jordan.” It, therefore, was not really or literally a Two-State solution. The CIA Report concluded that, “If no settlement with the Arab states is forthcoming, Israel appears ready to complete the Allon Plan without regard for the inflammatory impact that implementation would have on neighbouring Arab states.” The words could have been taken from the 1938 Woodhead Report, only the reference was to the impact of land purchases and continuing Jewish immigration into Palestine.
The vast bulk of the West Bank – excluding the areas attached to Jerusalem – eventually held 450,000 Jewish settlers. The Allon Plan also proposed to annex the Golan Heights and establish 32 settlements there, with ten already initiated before the Allon Plan was agreed to by the Cabinet and the Plan released to the public. The Allon Plan intended to retain large areas of the Sinai Peninsula, more particularly a strip down the Gulf of Eilat down to Sharm-el-Sheikh (Shayke) with tourist areas established along that coast.
The return of the entire Sinai took place in three steps:
- The Yom Kippur War of 1973 which Israel eventually won, but only after the loss of over 2,500 lives and many more wounded;
- The Sadat initiative offering to come to Jerusalem to make peace with Israel provided all of the Sinai was returned;
- The Begin-Sadat Peace Agreement between Egypt and Israel which provided for the return of all of the Sinai.
As for the breach with the Green Line, the Lines of the 1949 Armistice Agreement, the CIA Report had this to say. “The Armistice Demarcation Lines were simply cease-fire lines and are unrealistic (my italics) as permanent national boundaries. They cut off hill villages from traditional farmland; they deny access to the ports and the fishing grounds of the Mediterranean Sea; they isolate people in a subsistence economy from sorely needed services, sources of employment, and potential markets.” The perpetuation of the subsistence economy using the Green Line as a partition line was the point of my initial foray into solutions following the War of Independence.
The Allon Plan only made the dependency status of the Palestinians remaining in the West Bank even more precarious. Further, the CIA argued that, because of new methods of warfare, the terrain on the east of the Jordan River and the exposure of the new settlements to attack, the appropriation of land and the planting of settlements failed to provide the security that the Israelis sought.
What is most noticeable about the 1967 Allon Plan is that Trump’s peace plan of 2020 by and large followed the contours of the Allon Plan in which it was proposed to annex one half of Area C or 30% of the West Bank territory into Israel. In slightly over fifty years, the United States came to back a plan very similar to Allon’s, except it was adjusted for all the settlements that had been built in the last fifty years.
Munir Nuseibah argued that the Trump Plan now lent legitimacy to the land Israel had already seized both in Jerusalem and its surroundings as well as in the rest of the West Bank. “What the Trump deal provides is an opportunity for Israel to argue that this annexation was legitimate, as it is now recognized by the world’s largest superpower. Such a position provides Israel with further cover to seize Palestinian land and dispossess Palestinians in order to create a demographic Jewish majority in the city.”
 He was from Kibbutz Ginosaur on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and I happened to attend his huge funeral there in in February 1980 when I was living in Israel and teaching a course at Hebrew University. He had died suddenly and unexpectedly while he was campaigning against Shimon Peres to lead the Labour Party, then dubbed the Alignment..