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Between Intuition and Professionalism: Israeli Military Leadership during the 1948 Palestine War

From: The Journal of Military History
Volume 68, Number 3, July 2004
pp. 885-909 | 10.1353/jmh.2004.0147


Despite its achievements in the 1948 Palestine War, the military performance of the Israeli army was less impressive than is usually assumed. Attacks by the Israel Defense Force (IDF) on the regular Arab armies (Syrian, Jordanian, Iraqi, and Egyptian) ended in most cases in Israel's defeat. Israeli victories, which allowed the extension of the territories under its control, were gained in the fighting against the unorganized Palestinians and the semi-military Arab Liberation Army. The only significant military achievement in the war was the victory of Yigal Allon's forces over the Egyptians in southern Palestine. This success was gained at the conclusion of a debate between Allon and another IDF senior commander over the best way to conduct of offensive operations, a debate that provides a key to understanding the reason for Allon's remarkable achievement compared to the lesser performance of other IDF commanders. However, Allon's brilliant military leadership was the result of intuition and not of professional military education, a factor that had a negative effect on some of his decisions.