Criticisms of "Master Plan" Explanation
Historians skeptical of the "Master Plan" emphasize that no central directive has surfaced from the archives and argue that, had such an understanding been widespread, it would have left a mark in the vast documentation produced by the Zionist leadership at the time. Furthermore, Yosef Weitz, who was strongly in favor of expulsion, had explicitly asked Ben-Gurion for such a directive and was turned down. Finally, settlement policy guidelines drawn up between December 1947 and February 1948, designed to handle the absorption of the anticipated first million immigrants, planned for some 150 new settlements, of which about half were located in the Negev, while the remainder were sited along the lines of the UN partition map (29 November 1947) in the north and centre of the country.
The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East states that "recent studies, based on official Israeli archives, have shown that there was no official policy or instructions to bring about the expulsion." According to Efraim Karsh:
Israeli forces did on occsasion expel Palestinians. But this accounted for only a small fraction of the total exodus, occurred not within the framework of a premeditated plan but in the heat of battle, and was dictated predominantly by military ad hoc considerations (notably the need to deny strategic sites to the enemy if there were no available Jewish forces to hold them).... Indeed, even the largest expulsions, during the battle for Lydda in July 1948, emanated from a string of unexpected developments on the ground and in no way foreseen in military plans for the capture of the town.
New historian Avi Shlaim considers that the Plan Dalet is not a policy of expulsion but is a military plan dedicated to secure areas allocated to Jewish state.
Benny Morris considers that there was no master plan nor ethnic cleansing. Morris wrote, "he fact ... that during 1948 Ben-Gurion and most of the Yishuv's leaders wished to see as few Arabs remaining as possible, does not mean that the Yishuv adopted and implemented a policy of expulsion." He later expounded:
There was no Zionist "plan" or blanket policy of evicting the Arab population, or of "ethnic cleansing". Plan Dalet (Plan D), of 10 March 1948, (it is open and available for all to read in the IDF Archive and in various publications), was the master plan of the Haganah—the Jewish military force that became the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)—to counter the expected pan-Arab assault on the emergent Jewish state.
In his 2004 book, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, Morris wrote, "My feeling is that the transfer thinking and near-consensus that emerged in the 1930s and early 1940s 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." Morris also states that he could not find anything in the Israeli archives that would prove the existence of a Zionist plan to expel Palestinians in 1948. Elsewhere Morris has said that the explusion of the Palestinians did amount to ethnic cleansing, and that the action was justifiable considering the circumstances.
Yoav Gelber notes that documentation exists showing that David Ben-Gurion "regarded the escape as a calculated withdrawal of non-combatant population upon the orders of Arab commanders and out of military considerations", which is contradictory to the hypothesis of a master plan he may have drawn up.
Concerning the Plan Dalet, Gelber argues that Khalidi and Pappe's interpretation relies only on a single paragraph in a document of 75 pages, that has been taken out of its context. Describing the plan in reference to the announced intervention of the Arab armies, he argues that "it was a practical response to an emerging threat." Gelber also argues that the occupation and destruction of Arab villages described in the paragraph quoted in Khalidi's paper had the military purpose of preventing Arabs from cutting roads facilitating incursions by Arab armies, while eliminating villages that might have served as bases for attacking Jewish settlements. He also remarks that if Master Plan had been one dedicated to resolving the Arab question, it would have been written by Ben-Gurion's advisors on Arab affairs and by military officers under the supervision of the chief-of-staff Yigael Yadin.
Henry Laurens raises several objections to the views of those he calls the "intentionalists". Like Morris and Gelber he says that Plan Dalet obeyed a military logic, arguing that if it had not been followed, the strategic situation, particularly around Tel Aviv would have been as critical as that which existed around Jerusalem during the war.
Laurens cites some examples of events that indicate a contradiction in the "intentionalist" analysis. Like Gelber, he points out that Zionist authors at the beginning of the exodus considered it to be part and parcel of a "diabolic British plan" devised to impede the creation of the Jewish state. He also emphasizes that even those who had always advocated the Arab expulsion, like e.g. Yosef Weitz, had done nothing to prepare for it in advance, and thus found it necessary to improvise the "other transfer", the one dealing with transfer of Arab properties to Jewish institutions.
Globally Laurens also considers that the "intentionalism" thesis is untenable in the global context of the events and lacks historical methodology. He insists that, were the events the "intentionalists" put forward true, they are so only in terms of a priori reading of those events. To comply with such an analysis, the protagonists should have had a global consciousness of all the consequences of the project they promoted. Laurens considers that a "complot theory", on such a long time period, could not have been planned, even by a Ben-Gurion. In an "intentionalist" approach, he claims, events must be read without a priori and each action must be considered without assuming it will lead to where we know a posteriori it led but it must be considered in its context and in taking into account where the actors thought it would lead.
Laurens considers that with an appropriate approach the documentation gathered by Morris shows that the exodus was caused by mutual fears of the other side's intentions, Arabs feaing to be expelled by Zionists and in reaction Zionists feaing Arabs would prevent them by force to build their own state, and the fact that Palestine was not able to absorb both populations (he describes the situation as a zero-sum conflict).
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