THE ALLON PLAN, JUNE 1967
As the 1967 War drew to a close, Israel’s ‘unity government’ and its military strategists were forced to formulate an approach to the control of their vast new conquests. Early on it was held that the Sinai and Golan Heights might be eventually returned in exchange for treaties with Egypt and Syria. Israel, in contrast to near unanimous world opinion, did not, however, recognize Jordanian or Egyptian rights over the West Bank or Gaza Strip, claiming to have ‘liberated’ these areas from ‘illegal occupation’. But the demographic aspect of absorbing the indigenous Palestinian population into the Jewish State ruled out annexing these areas outright to Israel. In contrast, the conquest of Jerusalem was instantly deemed irreversible and, by 28 June, the Knesset had amended its laws and placed the entire city and expanded municipal area under Israeli sovereignty, later annexing the 70-km2 area. Here the demographic problem was considered a price worth paying, though subsequent Israeli policy would aim at ridding Jerusalem of its Palestinian population. Thus, in the days following the Israeli occupation, frantic and often conflicting plans for the future of the occupied territories were drawn up in each of these areas: Jerusalem; the Golan; Sinai; the Gaza Strip; and the West Bank. While no single plan was ever officially sanctioned, the Allon Plan, drawn up by Labor Minister Yigal Allon, was the scheme most acceptable to the military and was the first to be presented before the cabinet - in late July, barely six weeks after the cease-fire. In deference to the government’s early aim of preserving its territorial options in the Sinai and Golan, the Allon Plan initially focused on the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT). Inevitably, the plan evolved and expanded according to the divergent views and levels of influence of other cabinet figures, but was nonetheless to remain Israel’s loose master plan for the OPT for nearly a decade. Once the decision to retain control over the OPT had been made, the systematic installation of civilian and military colonies on Palestinian land as a means of developing and reinforcing that control commenced. The Allon Plan provided the initial boundaries and priorities for this settlement drive. Allon, with his assistant Dani Agmon, planned a broad corridor of paramilitary and civilian sites along the Jordan Valley, to run down the western shore of the Dead Sea in an even broader belt, reaching west to Hebron. This created a settled strip from the Israeli town of Arad (in the northeastern Negev), north to Beit Shean (Beisan) in Israel’s southern Galilee. The corridor between Israel’s coastal plain and unilaterally annexed Jerusalem was broadened extensively, creating a wide settlement zone between Ramallah and Bethlehem. Allon tentatively planned for Gaza’s refugees – ca. 75% of the Gaza population - to be transferred to the two militarily administered cantons created on the West Bank, followed by the annexation and settlement of the Gaza Strip, though this never eventuated. By remaining unofficial and vaguely worded, the Allon Plan bridged the gap between the government’s need to appear moderate to the international community and its desire to maintain the option of ‘stretching’ settlement boundaries in the future. Indeed, only weeks after the initial plan, Allon submitted a supplementary plan for extensive settlement in the Golan. Some months later, Allon amended his plan to include a corridor linking Ramallah with Jordan and a ‘highway’ connecting the north and south Palestinian cantons from Bethlehem to Ramallah. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan’s separate proposal for military installations along the mountain ridges within the envisioned Palestinian cantons was also incorporated in the plan. By 1971, settlements were also being built in the Sinai Peninsula, as the Allon Plan was stretched yet further. In 1976, Prime Minister Rabin and Defense Minister Peres eventually made the decision to break with Allon’s settlement ‘lines’ and pursue settlement deep in the northern canton (i.e., in the Ramallah, Salfit and Qalqilya areas). By then, the rise of ideological messianic settlement bodies and extensive unauthorized settlement activity throughout the OPT had made strict adherence to the Allon Plan a political liability, if not an impossibility. The Allon Plan’s erosion - not least at the hands of its author, who had headed the Inter- Ministerial Settlement Committee - was confirmed by Rabin, but its guiding principles were only finally cast off with the 1977 Likud victory. The Likud came to power having adopted a pro-settlement platform highly critical of the Allon Plan limitations and having pledged their support for the initiation of unfettered settlement programs throughout the OPT. Prime Minister Begin appointed Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon head of ‘Allon’s’ Settlement Committee.