The Carmel Plan

A Europa House Rule for War in the Desert and Wavell's War

Copyright © 2013, John M. Astell

Between the two world wars, Palestine became a center of Jewish immigration. By the start of World War II, the region had 450,000 Jewish inhabitants, alongside 930,000 Arab Moslem inhabitants who mostly resented and occasionally clashed with the the immigrants. The British ran the territory and failed to satisfy the demands or aspirations of either group.

When the war started in 1939, Nazi Germany with its anti-Jewish goals was remote from Palestine geographically. However, three years of military successes pushed German forces across Europe, across the Mediterranean Sea, and into Egypt, next door to Palestine. If the Germans had decisively defeated the British at El Alamein in 1942, the British could have been forced to withdraw from Egypt, Palestine, and nearby lands, leaving the Jews in Palestine to their fates at the hands of the Nazis. The Jews in Palestine, however, had no plans to submit to the Germans. Instead, they devised the Carmel Plan to try to save themselves from the Nazis.

This article covers the historical and geographical setting of the Carmel Plan and provides a set of house rules to add it to the Europa games, War in the Desert and Wavell's War.

Background and Analysis

Eastern Mediterranean
The Middle East and Near East Region, 1942

At the start of World War II, Palestine was a League of Nations mandate assigned to the United Kingdom. Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations created the mandate system, which had three levels of mandates ranging from Class A, which were lands under the “advice and assistance” of a mandatory power until they were ready to stand as fully independent countries, to Class C, which were places "best administered under the laws of the Mandatory as integral portions of its territory." Even for Class A mandates, however, the system gave tremendous latitude to the mandatory over administering the territories. In the case of Palestine, for example, the mandate stated, “The Mandatory shall, so far as circumstances permit, encourage local autonomy.” The UK administered the territory through the British Colonial Office, and in actuality rarely permitted much local autonomy.

The situation in Palestine was complicated by the various commitments the Allies made during World War I. To attract Jewish backing for the Allies, Britain issued the Balfour Declaration, which supported the establishment of a Jewish “national home” in Palestine. However, the British also, through the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence, instigated the Great Arab Revolt of the Ottoman Empire’s Arabs against their Turkish overlords. While not legally binding, the correspondence seemed to promise independence under Arab rule for the Arab areas of Ottoman Empire, including Palestine. Finally, the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement between Britain and France divided the Near East into spheres of influence for the two countries. While the agreement did state that France and Britain were “prepared to recognize and protect” an independent Arab state or confederation of states, in practice the agreement made it impossible for Britain to honor the promises in the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence. The conflicting expectations these declarations and agreements created would cause great problems for the region, problems that still continue today.

Unlike other mandates, the one for Palestine called for the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, Jewish immigration, and Jewish settlement, with the provision that the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine were to be respected. Jewish settlement in the area caused great tension with the Arab inhabitants, and Jewish-Arab clashes occurred throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Arab resent against both British control of the region and Jewish immigration led to the Arab Revolt of 1936-39, which Britain eventually defeated by use of British troops, Jewish auxiliaries, and other forces. Britain then issued the MacDonald White Paper, outlining an official policy that intended to create a single state in Palestine (rather than partitioning the land between the Arabs and the Jews) and to restrict Jewish immigration and land purchases without Arab consent. While this white paper attempted to mend Britain’s relations with the Arabs, many Jews saw it as an act of betrayal, repudiating the Balfour Declaration and hopes for a Jewish state. The outbreak of World War II, however, patched things up a bit between Britain the Palestinian Jews. Whatever their grievances with Britain, the Jews did not want to see Britain defeated by Germany. Many Jews (and some Arabs) volunteered to fight for Britain against the Axis, and during the war, about 30,000 Jews served in labor, support, and, eventually, combat units, particularly the 5,000-man Jewish Brigade in the British forces. These men would bring invaluable military experience back to Palestine after the war.

In 1939, Palestine had a population estimated to be about 1,500,000, approximately consisting of 930,000 Moslems, 450,000 Jews, 120,000 Christians, and 12,000 "Others" (the figures do not include British or British Empire citizens in the mandate's administration or security force). Note that the population figures track religious affiliation. The vast majority of the Moslems and very many of the Christians were Arabs.

At first, Palestine seemed distant from Germany and the Nazis, who had to face the combined might of France and Britain. As the war unfolded, however, events brought the war almost to the gates of Palestine. France was defeated and became a collaborationist regime that allowed German forces passage through neighboring Syria. Italy entered the war on Germany’s side, bringing the conflict to the African and Asia lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

German Africa Corps
German Africa Emblem

Although Italian arms turned out to be no real threat to the British in Egypt and the Near East, the arrival of Rommel and German forces (at first the German Africa Corps, Deutsches Afrika-Korps, later growing into Panzer Army Africa) dramatically changed the situation. By the summer of 1942, a string of British defeats had routed the British back to El Alamein, the gateway to the Egyptian Nile Delta. Many feared another the Axis drive might overrun Egypt, cross the Suez Canal, and push into Palestine and beyond, perhaps to link up with Axis forces on the offensive in the southern regions of the Soviet Union.

Northern Palestine
Approximate topography of northern Palestine. (Megiddo is an archaeological site of an ancient series of settlements and an ancient Egyptian-Canaanite battle was fought nearby. The 15th Century BC Battle of Megiddo is believed to have been the source for the Biblical story of Armageddon, the future final battle between good and evil. In modern times, Megiddo also lent its name to the 1918 Battle of Megiddo during World War I, in which Entente forces inflicted a massive defeat on the Ottoman Empire.)

In Palestine, the Jewish leaders considered the situation very dangerous and potentially catastrophic. A British defeat in Egypt could very well cause the British to withdraw from the area into Iraq and Kuwait, abandoning the territory to the Axis—and the Jews to persecution and execution at the hands of the Nazis. As a desperate last stand against the Axis, in 1942 the Jewish leaders in Palestine devised the Carmel Plan. The Haganah, the unofficial Jewish defense organization, would fortify and defend the area around Haifa, the Zebulon valley, and Mt. Carmel in northern Palestine. The plan envisioned that the entire Jewish population of Palestine (about 500,000 by this time) would withdraw into the fortified area and resist the Axis invaders. Although the terrain of the Mount Carmel was not ideal for defensive purposes (despite its name, the area is hilly rather than mountainous), the area could accommodate 500,000 people. Also, the deep-water port at Haifa gave hopes, however remote, that Allied naval forces and reinforcements might arrive to rescue the defenders. Nearby Mt. Meron would have made a much better defensive position, as it was over twice as high as Mt. Carmel and more rugged, but the area could neither support 500,000 people nor provide access to the sea. Also, the Mt. Meron area did not have much in the way of Jewish settlement at this time, while a substantial Jewish population was already in the Haifa-Mt. Carmel region.

Although the Haganah numbered on the order of 50,000 men, its military capabilities were very limited. Officially, it had 10,000 active men and 40,000 reservists. In actuality, it was a militia in which most of the men had little formal military experience and many were farmers who served as part-time guards for their fields and villages. Various Haganah members did have some paramilitary experience, arising from the frequent Arab-Jewish clashes in the 1920s and 1930s. During the Palestinian Arab Revolt, the British used hundreds of Jewish volunteers as police and auxiliaries to help secure the territory. This paramilitary security work constituted the closest thing most Haganah members had to actual military training or experience, until the Jewish volunteers in the British forces returned home in 1945-46.

The Haganah also mostly lacked military equipment. The British for many years tried to prevent the Jews and Arabs of Palestine from acquiring military weapons. Of course, both groups smuggled arms into the region, mainly small arms. The Haganah had also workshops that made hand grenades.

Palmach Insignia
Palmach Insignia

In 1941, the Haganah consolidated its most military-capable men in the Palmach (the Plugoth Mahatz, “Shock Companies”). By 1942 the Palmach numbered perhaps 1,000 men, rising to perhaps 2,000 later. It is estimated that the Palmach had four battalions capable of military operations by the end of the war. Palmach soldiers were highly capable and motivated, with some becoming special forces serving in the British forces during the war. Overall, however, most Palmach units lacked heavy military equipment and training for large-scale operations. The four battalions were essentially “light infantry,” in the sense that they mostly lacked heavy military equipment.

Mt. Carmel in 1918

Photograph of Mount Carmel, from Album of Views published in 1918. The structures at the top of the hill comprise the Carmelite monastery. The buildings lower down are near the Cave of Elijah. The Bahai’s Shrine of Bab is also on Mount Carmel (not pictured).

Mount Carmel is a series of hills extending from the Mediterranean Sea at Haifa and running southeast for about 14 miles (23 km), with a maximum width of about 6 miles (10 km). The highest hill is about 1,800 feet (540 meters) in elevation. The slopes on its northeast face are steep, while those on the southwest face are more gradual.

Mount Carmel is known for its natural beauty. Its name, “Carmel,” derives from the Hebrew karmel, meaning garden. Large parts of Mount Carmel are wooded with pine, eucalyptus, and cypress.

The port city of Haifa is located on the northwestern flank of Mount Carmel. In World War I, the British captured the city from the Ottoman Empire. The port was expanded after the war, with a modern deep-water harbor being completed in 1933.

In Europa terms, Mount Carmel is neither high enough to qualify as a mountain hex or hexside. If its area were more extensive, it would have been shown as rough terrain, but its limited extent (only about a third of the land area of WITD hex 4305) led to the hex being rated as clear terrain.

As the situation worsened in 1942, the British changed their policy and agreed to train some of the Palmach and equip them with small arms. In mid-1942 when the Axis threat was at its greatest, the British undertook to train an additional 300 Palmach members in sabotage and guerrilla tactics, clearly with the hope that they would wage guerrilla warfare should the Axis occupy Palestine. After the Axis defeat at El Alamein, the British reverted to their earlier policy and withdrew their support for the Palmach, which promptly went back underground.

So, even the best Jewish force, the Palmach, lacked heavy weapons, antitank guns, artillery, air support, ammunition, large-unit training, and almost everything else that military forces needed to operate successfully in World War II. However, it seems likely that if the British forces did evacuate Palestine, they would abandon some military equipment and supplies, which the Haganah and Palmach would try to seize and use. Still, the scale of this seems likely to be small.

Some fortification work was undertaken in the Carmel Plan zone, but it is unclear how extensive this was. (Supposedly, some railroad rails driven into the ground as antitank barriers still exist in parts of Haifa.) I suspect the work did not progress far enough for the fortifications to show up at Europa level as a fort. As far as I know, the British did not supply engineering expertise, construction troops, or material to fortify the area.

As for Jewish guerrilla operations against a German occupation of Palestine, this unfortunately assumes that the Jewish population was going to be left in place and thus could provide refuge for guerrilla forces. This was extremely unlikely. Like what happened in Poland and the USSR, it was more likely was that Germany would send in police, security, and SS paramilitary forces to round up and place in concentration camps all “undesirable” elements. Without a friendly populace to hide among, Jewish guerrillas would find it extremely difficult to sustain operations.

Overall, my conclusion is that the Carmel Plan was unlikely to have a significant impact at Europa level. While undoubtedly the Haganah would fight heroically, without significant British aid, the Haganah’s lack of training, equipment, and experience indicates their effectiveness against a well-equipped, mechanized military force would be limited. This indicates why the Carmel Plan does not show up in War in the Desert. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t have a house rule about it!

Carmel Plan House Rules

Use the following rules for the Carmel Plan when playing any War in the Desert or Wavell’s War scenario in which the hex of Haifa (19A:4305) is in play.

Carmel Plan Zone

The Carmel Plan zone consists of the hex of Haifa. The Carmel Plan is triggered in any Allied initial phase in which one of the following conditions prevails:

Carmel Plan Forces

Once the plan is triggered, the following reinforcement schedule is used:

WITD Northern Palestine
Northern Palestine and Nearby Areas, War in the Desert
ALLIED ORDER OF BATTLE
Carmel Plan Turn 1

Jewish:
Middle East:
Place at Haifa (19A:4305):

1x 1-2-0 Static X             Alef
1x [4] construction marker
Carmel Plan Turn 2

Jewish:
Middle East:
Place at Haifa (19A:4305):

1x 0-2-0 Static X             Bet
Carmel Plan Turn 3

Jewish:
Middle East:
Special: Force upgrades possible starting this turn; see below.
Special: Jewish raiding ability is available starting this turn; see below.
Place at Haifa (19A:4305):

1x 1-2-0 Static X             Gimel
Carmel Plan Turn 5

Jewish:
Middle East:
Place at Haifa (19A:4305):

1x 0-2-0 Static X             Dalet
Carmel Plan Turn 7

Jewish:
Middle East:
Place at Haifa (19A:4305):

1x  0-2-0 Static X            He
Carmel Plan Turn 9

Jewish:
Middle East:
Place at Haifa (19A:4305):

1x 1-2-0 Static X             Vav
Carmel Plan Force Upgrades

If the Allied player has a supply terminal in Haifa, once the Carmel Plan is triggered, he may spend British inf RPs there to help equip the Haganah. Due to the time it would take to train most of the Haganah with modern military weapons, the Allied player can only spend 1 inf RP per month for the Carmel Plan, starting no sooner than Turn 3.

Jewish:
Middle East:
Upgrade:
—Either 1x 1-2-0 Static X any (1 British inf RP) to:

1x 2-3-0* Static X            any

—or 1x 0-2-0 Static X any (1 British inf RP) to:

1x 1-3-0* Static X            any

Available:

3x  2-3-0* Static X           Alef, Gimel, Vav
3x 1-3-0* Static X            Bet, Dalet, He

Jewish Forces Rules

Mt. Carmel area map
The Carmel Plan Region and Nearby Areas
(from Survey of Palestine, Aug. 1944, Palestine North Sheet)

[4] Construction Marker

The [4] construction marker represents paramilitary and civilian laborers available in the Haifa area. For construction purposes only, the marker is treated as a 4-MP construction unit. For all other purposes, such as movement, combat, and stacking, the marker is not a unit. (For example, the construction marker can spend 4 MPs for construction activities in its hex, but it cannot move out of its hex.) The marker is removed if the Axis gains ownership of the Haifa hex.

Retreat Results Ignored

Due to the presumed desperate nature of the circumstances and undoubted bravery of the Haganah in its final stand, the Jewish static brigades ignore all retreat results.

No Scrapping or Disbanding

Carmel Plan Jewish units would not be fully under Allied control. Consequently, the Allied player may not scrap or disband any of these units.

Jewish Raiding Ability

I do not believe that guerrilla tactics would be practical outside the Haifa hex during the Carmel Plan. However, you can make a case that a commando-style raiding force could have been formed. Accordingly, starting with Turn 3 of the Carmel Plan, allow the Allied player a Jewish raiding ability in Palestine, using the Allied raiding force rules. Once the Allied player receives the Jewish raiding ability, he may attempt to raid one Axis-owned airbase or rail hex in Palestine each turn. The Allied player may use this ability to raid any hex in Palestine that does not contain an Axis unit with a defense strength greater than 0.

Resolve a raid during the Allied initial phase. The Allied player selects an eligible target, rolls one die, and consults the Success Table. On any Failure result, the raid was unsuccessful and had no effect. On a Success result, the raid has the following effect:

Dispersal

The Carmel Plan enclave would likely have been dispersed if the Allies regained control of the region. Accordingly, once the plan is triggered, it is dispersed in any Allied initial phase in which the Axis player had no units and owns no hexes in the following area: Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt east of the Suez Canal, and the Delta. When dispersed, remove all Carmel Plan Jewish units and the [4] construction marker from play. (The Allied player does not regain any British inf RPs that were spent for Carmel Plan forces.)

Resumption

The Carmel Plan would likely have been resumed once dispersed if the threat returned. Just follow the above procedure again, except use the upgraded strengths for any unit that managed to get upgraded.

Note

Note that the Carmel Plan forces do not have their own general supply source, attack supply, or resource points. In these circumstances, the Allied player should consider opening a supply terminal (standard supply terminal in Wavell’s War) at Haifa. However, note that the Allied player may open supply terminals in ports along the eastern Mediterranean only if the Suez Canal is open.

Arab Assistance House Rules

Germany, with its infamous anti-Semitic policies and propaganda under the Nazis, would have almost certainly gained enthusiastic assistance from the anti-Jewish portion of the Arab community in Palestine. It is likely the Germans would have been able to raise Arab labor units (like the British actually did in Palestine) and even security or combat forces, if they were willing to provide equipment and training.

Arab Assistance Forces

AXIS ORDER OF BATTLE
On or After 2 Game Turns of Continuous German Ownership of Certain Territory in Palestine

German:
Near East:
Place at any German-owned city in Palestine:

1x 0-4 Cons X                 1 PA (fc)
On or After 3 Game Turns of Continuous German Ownership of Certain Territory in Palestine

German:
Near East:
For every 1 German inf RP spent, place as forming in Palestine:

1x 1-2-4 Static X             any (fc)

Available:

3x  1-2-4 Static X            1 PAL, 2 PAL, 3 PAL (fc)
On or After 4 Game Turns of Continuous German Ownership of Certain Territory in Palestine

German:
Near East:
Place at any German-owned city in Palestine:

1x 0-4 Cons X                 2 PA (fc)
At least 12 Turns after Formation Begun, with 12 Game Turns of Continuous German Ownership of Certain Territory in Palestine

German:
Near East:
Full:

1x 1-2-4 Static X             any (fc)

Available:

3x 1-2-4 Static X             1 PAL, 2 PAL, 3 PAL (fc)
Any Time, with Continuous German Ownership of Certain Territory in Palestine

German:
Near East:
Upgrade (.5 German inf RP):

1x 1-2-4 Static X             any (fc)

To:

1x 2-6 Inf X                  any (fc)

Available:

3x 2-6 Inf X                  1 PAL, 2 PAL, 3 PAL (fc)

Arab Forces Rules

Continuous German Ownership

"Game Turns of Continuous German Ownership of Certain Territory in Palestine" is listed as a condition for various Arab forces reinforcements. This means that the Axis player must have continuous German ownership of one or more hexes in Palestine, and this ownership must include at least one city in Palestine:

Palestinian Arab Revolt

The conditions that would have led to the Jews starting the Carmel Plan would also very likely have sparked another Arab revolt against the British. Accordingly, when the Carmel Plan is activated, an Arab revolt also begins. All hexes in Palestine other than hexes containing cities are in revolt against the Allied player. (It is assumed that low-level security and auxiliary forces under British control could keep control of the cities.) A hex that is in revolt costs Allied forces +1 MP to enter. Further, unless the hex in revolt is occupied by or in the uncontested ZOC of an Allied unit, the Allied player may not trace a supply line into the hex or use rail movement in the hex.

A hex in revolt may be pacified by an Allied unit spending a complete game turn (starting with one Allied initial phase and ending in the next Allied initial phase) there. The pacifying unit must be in general supply and have an attack strength of 1 or more.

Any hex in Palestine that goes from being German owned to Allied owned is in revolt when this happens, even if it is a city hex or if it had earlier been pacified by the Allies.

Final Notes

1) I have consistently given the benefit of the doubt to the Haganah due to their undoubted heroics in this desperate situation. I suspect their actual capabilities in 1942 would be less than this. Even so, without the Allied player undertaking measures to support the Carmel Plan (opening a supply terminal, providing inf RPs, providing a resource point to fortify Haifa), the Carmel Plan forces will be very weak, unsupported, and unsupplied. They would be easily overrun if the Allies abandoned Palestine to the Axis. Hence, I believe War in the Desert’s treatment of Palestine (ignoring the Carmel Plan and only requiring an Axis garrison for Palestine) works fine in the game.

2) This house rule is not written in fully formal rules style but instead is intended to provide guidelines for players wanting to experiment in this area. The house rule also does not cover events that have low or no probability of occurring in War in the Desert or Wavell’s War, such as the Axis threatening Palestine by means other than overrunning Egypt. For example, if you play scenarios that allow the Axis to invade Turkey, then the Carmel Plan should be triggered based on events in Turkey, the Levant, and Iraq as well as in Egypt.

3) A successful defense of the Carmel Plan zone by the Haganah and a return of the British to the area after defeating the Axis forces in the region would have undoubtedly changed British-Jewish relations. While rules covering the ramifications of this are too complex, mostly likely the proposal to create a Jewish division in the British forces to fight the Axis would have been raised again, as it was earlier in the war. Drawn from members of the Haganah and Palmach, who would have at least been in serious training during the crisis if not in actual combat, the unit would likely have been quite good. Accordingly, 12 turns after the Carmel Plan is dispersed, the Allied player receives the following British Colonial unit:

1x 10-8 Inf XX                Jewish (Col)

Its breakdowns consist of:

1x 8 Inf XX HQ                Jewish (Col)
3x 3-8*/3-8 Inf X             1 Jewish, 2 Jewish, 3 Jewish (Col)

In most cases, it seems likely that the Jewish division would appear too late in War in the Desert to have much effect. Accordingly, if you successfully use the Carmel Plan in War in the Desert, dispersing it before the end of the game, then the next time you play the Allies in Second Front, start the Jewish division as part of the Jul I 43 and Apr I 44 MTO forces. (In this case, ignore the entry of the Second Front 3-8* Inf X Jewish (Col) that appears in the MTO late in the game.)

New Counters

Jewish: light blue on white

3x 2-3-0* Static X            Alef, Gimel, Vav
3x 1-3-0* Static X            Bet, Dalet, He
3x 1-2-0* Static X            Alef, Gimel, Vav
3x 0-2-0* Static X            Bet, Dalet, He
1x [4] construction marker

Note: These unit IDs are invented and are based on letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

British Colonial: brown/black on white

1x 10-8 Inf XX                Jewish (Col)
1x 8 Inf XX HQ                Jewish (Col)
3x 3-8* Inf X                 1 J, 2 J, 3 J (Col)

Abbreviations:

J              Jewish

Note: These unit IDs follow the example of the actual Jewish Brigade raised by the British.

German Army Foreign Contingent: white on gray-green

2x 0-4 Cons X                 1 PA, 2 PA (fc)
3x 1-2-4 Static X             1 PAL, 2 PAL, 3 PAL (fc)
3x 2-6 Inf X                  1 PAL, 2 PAL, 3 PAL (fc)

Abbreviations:

PA             Palästinensischer Araber [Palestinian Arab]
PAL            Palästinensischer Arabische Legion [Palestinian Arabian Legion]

Note: These unit IDs are invented but are based on how the Germans designated various other foreign contingents.