1941 – A Soldier and Commander in the Palmach
The summer of 1941 saw the establishment of the Palmach, and Yitzhak Rabin was among the first to join its ranks. In 1943, several months after the Germans’ defeat at the Battle of El Alamein, the collaboration between the British Army and the “Haganah” ended. The Palmach was required to finance its activity by working on kibbutzim. The new arrangement led to concern among the Palmach units, who were forced into inaction. At the same time, those enlisting in the British Army would see action in the war against Hitler. Rabin was among those who stayed in the Palmach and saw the establishment of an independent Jewish fighting force in the Land of Israel as the primary assignment of his generation.
With the Palmach’s expansion and organization into battalions, Rabin was promoted to serve as deputy commander of the 1st Battalion.
At the end of the Second World War, the Yishuv’s leadership decided upon a new defense policy, the primary focus of which was a “close struggle” to achieve the fundamental goals of Zionism – immigration (aliyah) and settlement. As a part of this initiative, the “Haganah” established new settlements and illegal immigration (aka “Aliyah Bet.”) The conflict with the British was unavoidable: Many of the boats carrying illegal immigrants on their way to the Land of Israel were unsuccessful in breaking the British blockade, leading to the immigrants, Holocaust survivors, being forcibly disembarked and imprisoned in the detention camp at Atlit. In 1945, in an operation to release the detainees initiated by the “Haganah,” Rabin commanded the force that infiltrated the camp at Atlit. The operation was a success, and the immigrants were released. It was during this operation that Rabin first came face to face with Holocaust survivors.
In 1946, the leadership of the Yishuv decided it was time to step up the struggle against the British. The Jewish Resistance Movement was established as part of an alliance between the “Haganah,” “Etzel,” and “Lehi” underground movements. Following a series of operations, the British struck back: On June 29, 1946, in a well-planned and vast British military operation, known in the collective memory as the “Black Sabbath,” the Yishuv’s leadership was detained, and large stockpiles of weapons were confiscated. With his father, Rabin was arrested and held for approximately five months. Immediately following his release, he was promoted to command Palmach’s 2nd Battalion. In October 1947, he became Palmach’s Chief of Operations.