Palmach Integrates with IDF

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Newsroom

Center for Israel Education

September 14, 1948

Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion summons dozens of commanders of the Palmach for a conference at which he announces the dismantling of the elite unit and its integration into the new Israel Defense Forces.

The Palmach had been created in 1941 as an elite strike force of the Haganah (the primary defense force of the pre-state Jewish community). During the early part of the 1948 war , the Palmach maintained its own organizational autonomy within the framework of the IDF, including a separate command structure and training. Ben-Gurion both wanted to depoliticize the IDF (the Palmach was closely linked to the Kibbutz movement) as well to create a single military organization to encompass all previously active underground forces. The same policy of integration into the IDF was also applied to Etzel (Irgun) and Lehi (Stern gang).

Yitzhak Rabin, one of the leaders of the Palmach, recalled in his memoirs, “On September 14, dozens of Palmach officers were summoned to a conference with Ben-Gurion. He began by showering praise upon the Palmach for the outstanding role it had played in the country’s defense and for its unique values, which deserved to be adopted throughout the IDF…the existence of a separate Palmach command had lost its relevance…The discussion went on for hours, but I remained silent. In truth, I felt somewhat ambivalent about this latest decision. According to Ben-Gurion’s scheme of things, with the Palmach brigades dispersed among various fronts, there was indeed no place for a separate command…Yet more compelling than the logic of the move was the feeling that the state’s leadership, and the IDF command, were now dominated by men who had a vested interest in diminishing the stature and contribution of the Palmach – our only mobilization force at the outbreak of the war. I sometimes lapsed into wondering how far the move was designed to cover up tracks – or in this case, the lack of them.” (Rabin, Yitzhak, “The Rabin Memoirs.” Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1979, p. 36.)

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