The Palmach was set up in the summer of 1941 and Yitzhak Rabin was one of the first to join its ranks. In 1943, a few months after the Germans were routed at El Alamein, cooperation between the Haganah and the British army came to an end, and the Palmach was forced to finance itself by working on Kibbutzim. The new setup raised fears among Palmach fighters that they would end up sitting on the sidelines, while those enlisting in the British army would take part in the war against Hitler. Rabin was among those who stayed with the Palmach. He saw the founding of an independent Jewish force in Palestine as the most important mission of his generation.
When the Palmah expanded, and its companies organized into battalions, Rabin was appointed as deputy commander of the First Battalion.
With the end of the Second World War, the Yishuv leadership embarked on a new security policy, the main aim of which was a "struggle" to realize the fundamental goals of Zionism - Aliyah and settlement. As part of that struggle, the Haganah initiated illegal Aliyah and the founding of new settlements. Conflict with the British was unavoidable: Shiploads of Ma'apilim (illegal immigrants) making their way to Palestine failed to break through the British cordon. The Ma'apilim, who were holocaust survivors, were taken to shore and incarcerated at the Atlit detention camp. In 1945,Rabin commanded a Haganah organized force that broke into the camp in a successful raid to free the Ma'apilim. It was during this operation that Rabin first came face to face with holocaust survivors.
In 1946 the Yishuv leadership decided to step up the struggle against the British and the Jewish Resistance Movement was founded with the participation of the Haganah, the Irgun Zva'i Leumi (National Army Organization) and the Lochamei Herut Israel (Israel Freedom Fighters). After a series of operations by the Resistance, the British clamped down: On June 29, 1946, the British army, in a wide-scale and well planned operation which was to become known as The Black Sabbath, arrested the leaders of the Yishuv and confiscated large amounts of weapons. Rabin was arrested together with his father and was sent to a detention camp. Immediately after his release some five months later he was appointed commander of the Palmach's Second Battalion, and in October, 1947 he became the Palmach's Chief Operations Officer.
"The Palmach way of life reflected a generation of volunteering Sabras. A generation willing to work to support themselves. It represented a new kind of Israeli, a figure worthy of being a role model for youngsters. What I am talking about is the need to make do with little, and with the same innocent and genuine willingness that I and my friends had to sacrifice ourselves for the nation, and I'm telling you that's the way I lived - with that need."
Commander in the War of Independence
On November 29, 1947 the General Assembly of the United Nations voted for the partition of Eretz Israel into Jewish and Arab states. The Jews accepted the plan, but the Arabs of Eretz Israel rejected it and in order to scuttle it , launched an assault on Jewish targets. The War of Independence had begun.
As the Palmach's Chief Operations Officer in charge of coordination with the general staff, Rabin's primary concern was beefing up the Palmach force with munitions and men, and keeping open the way to Jerusalem, which was under constant attack from Arab villages along the route.
At the beginning of April 1948, Rabin was seconded to the Harel force and was quickly put in charge of its HQ. He warned against the defensive policy employed to defend convoys to Jerusalem and called for offensive action against the Arab villages serving as bases for attacks on the convoys. Later that month the Harel Brigade was formed and Rabin, at the age of 24, was appointed its commander. Four days later, the Haganah decided on Operation Yevussi to take over Jerusalem as the British withdrew. Dozens of Rabin's soldiers were killed along the way to Jerusalem, and in bitter fighting inside the town. On May 14, 1948, the day of the Declaration of Independence, Rabin was with his exhausted force at the command post near Ma'ale Hachamisha.
On June 11, the first cease-fire of the war came into effect and under cover of that cease-fire a bypass into Jerusalem, the "Burma Road", was built with the help of the Harel Brigade. The siege of Jerusalem was eased. On July 9, Operation Dani was launched to take Lod and Ramla. Yitzhak Rabin was the Operations Officer and the deputy to its commander, Yigal Alon. The sight of convoys of refugees expelled from their homes and carrying their personal belongings left a harsh impression on the Israel Defense Force soldiers.
During the second cease-fire of the war, despite strong objections, Palmach HQ were dismantled, and its units were assimilated into the Israel Defense Forces. Now, as part of the IDF, the Palmach prepared to liberate the Negev.
Rabin took advantage of the cease-fire and on July 19 married his girlfriend Leah Schlossberg.
Yigal Allon was appointed Southern Front commander and most members from the Palmach HQ joined him, among them Yitzhak Rabin, who was appointed Operations Officer and Allon's deputy. As part of his duties, Rabin planned major operations against the Egyptian army. During the fighting, he was sent as Allon's representative to the cease-fire talks with the Egyptians in Rhodes. This was the first diplomatic mission of his career. Before the agreements were signed, Rabin requested to return to Israel. He did not want to be among the signatories because he was not satisfied with the withdrawal included in the accords, and, in particular, because he wanted to take part in "Operation Uvda" which was about to be launched and which he had helped to plan.
In July 1949, when the cease-fire accords with Syria were signed, the War of Independence came to an end.
Rabin was 27 and had to decide on his future. He wanted to go on to higher education and had received a scholarship, but decided to continue to these people his military service.