Plan Dalet - Controversy About The Intent of Plan Dalet

Controversy About The Intent of Plan Dalet

The intent of Plan Dalet is subject to much controversy, with historians on the one extreme asserting that it was entirely defensive, and historians on the other extreme asserting that the plan aimed at maximum conquest and expulsion.

Walid Khalidi (General Secretary of the Institute for Palestine Studies) offered this interpretation in an address to the American Committee on Jerusalem:

As is witnessed by the Haganah's Plan Dalet, the Jewish leadership was determined to link the envisaged Jewish state with the Jerusalem corpus separatum. But the corpus separatum lay deep in Arab territory, in the middle of the envisaged Palestinian state, so this linking up could only be done militarily.

Khalidi calls Plan Dalet a "Master Plan for the Conquest of Palestine". He points to the Zionist ideas of transfer and of a Jewish state in all of Palestine, and to the offensive character of the military operations of the Zionists as the main proof of his interpretation.

In his book on the birth of the Palestinian refugee problem Israeli historian Benny Morris discusses the relevance of the idea of "population transfer in Zionist thinking. Morris concludes that there was Zionist support for transfer "in the 1930s and early 1940s", and that while this "transfer thinking" had conditioned the Yishuv's hearts and minds to accept it as natural and inevitable when it happened, it "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".

On the intent of Plan Dalet Morris writes:

The essence of the plan was the clearing of hostile and potentially hostile forces out of the interior of the territory of the prospective Jewish State, establishing territorial continuity between the major concentrations of Jewish population and securing the future State's borders before, and in anticipation of, the invasion . The Haganah regarded almost all the villages as actively or potentially hostile.
The plan was neither understood nor used by the senior field officers as a blanket instruction for the expulsion of 'the Arabs'. But, in providing for the expulsion or destruction of villages that had resisted or might threaten the Yishuv, it constituted a strategic-doctrinal and carte blanche for expulsions by front, brigade, district and battalion commanders (who in each case argued military necessity) and it gave commanders, post facto, formal, persuasive cover for their actions. However, during April–June, relatively few commanders faced the moral dilemma of having to carry out the expulsion clauses. Townspeople and villagers usually left their homes before or during battle, and Haganah rarely had to decide about, or issue, expulsion orders...."

In his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine Israeli historian Ilan Pappé asserts that Plan Dalet was a "blueprint for ethnic cleansing":

... this ... blueprint spelled it out clearly and unambiguously: the Palestinians had to go ... The aim of the plan was in fact the destruction of both rural and urban areas of Palestine.

Pappé distinguishes between the general section of Plan Dalet and the operational orders given to the troops. According to Pappé the general section of the plan, which was distributed to politicians, was misguiding as to the real intentions of the Haganah. The real plan was handed down to the brigade commanders "not as vague guidelines, but as clear-cut operational orders for action". Along with the general section, "each brigade commander received a list of the villages or neighborhoods that had to be occupied, destroyed, and their inhabitants expelled".

According to the French historian Henry Laurens, the importance of the military dimension of plan Dalet becomes clear by comparing the operations of the Jordanian and the Egyptian armies. The ethnical homogeneity of the coastal area, obtained by the expulsions of the Palestinians eased the halt of the Egyptian advance, while Jewish Jerusalem, located in an Arab population area, was encircled by Jordanian forces.

According to Israeli historian Yoav Gelber, Plan Dalet was a defensive plan:

Although it provided for counter-attacks, Plan Dalet was a defensive scheme and its goals were (1) protection of the borders of the upcoming Jewish state according to the partition line; (2) securing its territorial continuity in the face of invasion attempts; (3) safeguarding freedom of movement on the roads and (4) enabling continuation of essential daily routines.

Gelber rejects what he calls the "Palestinian-invented" version of Plan Dalet.

Military historian David Tal writes, "the plan did provide the conditions for the destruction of Palestinian villages and the deportation of the dwellers; this was not the reason for the plan's composition", and that "its aim was to ensure full control over the territory assigned to the Jews by the partition resolution, thus placing the Haganah in the best possible strategic position to face an Arab invasion".

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