Sixty-eight years ago tonight (by the Hebrew calendar) the world saw a real miracle from God. After a wait of almost 2,000 years, there Jewish people once again had a nation-state, as Israel declaring her independence.
The Jewish State’s existence would have been very short lived were it not for the strong will of President Harry S Truman, who became the new State’s first international supporter over the objections of his very popular and powerful Secretary of State George Marshall. The president didn’t make his decision because of politics but like so much of what Truman did he supported Israel because he thought it was the right thing to do. Of course some attributed Truman’s stance to something else. When Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Isaac Herzog, visited the White House after Israel declared her independence he told Truman, “God put you in your mother’s womb so that you would be the instrument to bring the rebirth of Israel after 2000 years.”
Based on the past seven years it is reasonable to believe that if Barack Obama was president 68 years ago, Israel may very well have been cast aside in deference to the King of Saudi Arabia and the Arab League. He most probably would have tried to negate the UN Partition Plan, as most in the State Department recommended in 1948, because President Obama and the Democratic Party are reluctant supporters of Israel who believe the United States should lead from behind. That wasn’t Harry Truman’s style.
“What I am trying to do is make the whole world safe for Jews,” Harry Truman wrote as he agonized over his decision to recognize a Jewish state in Palestine.
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Secretary of State George Marshall (Time’s 1947 Man of the Year) an international hero was just as opposed to the creation of Israel as Truman was for it. Clark M. Clifford, Special Counsel to President Truman, remembered the internal administration fight regarding the recognition of the Jewish State — the final discussion in the Oval Office. The meeting turned out to be an angry battle with Clifford and the President on one side, Marshall and Undersecretary of State Robert Lovett on the other.
The argument used by the state department leaders were similar to the ones Democrats used when Speaker Boehner invited Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress about the Iran deal. Undersecretary Lovett first argued Truman was supporting Israel solely for political gain and he warned the President the move would lose more votes than it would gain. When that didn’t work, Lovett tried another approach –the red scare (because you know all of those Jews are commies).
Clifford recalled the argument:
Mr. President, to recognize the Jewish state prematurely would be buying a pig in a poke. How do we know what kind of Jewish state will be set up? We have many reports from British and American intelligence agents that Soviets are sending Jews and Communist agents into Palestine from the Black Sea area.
Lovett read some of these intelligence reports to the group. Clifford said he found them ridiculous, and no evidence ever turned up to support them; in fact, Jews were fleeing communism throughout Eastern Europe at that very moment.”
When Lovett was done speaking it was the “hero” Marshall’s turn. As Clifford described the remarks:
I had noticed Marshall’s face reddening with suppressed anger as I talked. When I finished, he exploded: “Mr. President, I thought this meeting was called to consider an important and complicated problem in foreign policy. I don’t even know why Clifford is here. He is a domestic adviser, and this is a foreign policy matter.”
I would never forget President Truman’s characteristically simple reply: “Well, General, he’s here because I asked him to be here.”
Marshall, scarcely concealing his ire, shot back, “These considerations have nothing to do with the issue. I fear that the only reason Clifford is here is that he is pressing a political consideration with regard to this issue. I don’t think politics should play any part in this.”
Lovett accused the POTUS was only trying to get the Jewish vote (a charge that angered Truman to his dying day and one that Democrats often make today).
“It would be highly injurious to the United Nations to announce the recognition of the Jewish state even before it had come into existence and while the General Assembly is still considering the question. Furthermore, such a move would be injurious to the prestige of the President. It is obviously designed to win the Jewish vote, but in my opinion, it would lose more votes than it would gain.” Lovett had finally brought to the surface the root cause of Marshall’s fury – his view that the position I presented was dictated by domestic political considerations, specifically a quest for Jewish votes.
Secretary of State, General of the Army George C. Marshall, (a huge hero even to Truman who called Marshall the greatest living American) spoke up:
Marshall spoke again. He was still furious. Speaking with barely contained rage and more than a hint of self-righteousness, he made the most remarkable threat I ever heard anyone make directly to a President: “If you follow Clifford’s advice and if I were to vote in the election, I would vote against you.
Everyone in the room was stunned. Here was the indispensable symbol of continuity [from FDR] whom President Truman revered and needed, making a threat that, if it became public, could virtually seal the dissolution of the Truman Administration and send the Western Alliance, then in the process of creation, into disarray before it had been fully structured.
Marshall’s statement fell short of an explicit threat to resign, but it came very close.” General Marshall’s position was grossly unfair.
Just as Congressional Democrats claimed earlier this year, opponents of the Jewish State believed the sole reason for
President Truman’s support was politics.
But Truman’s mind was made up– he was going to do the right thing. At 4 p.m. Friday May 14, 1948 just before the start of the Jewish Sabbath, David Ben Gurion read a 979-word declaration of independence in front of a small audience at the Tel Aviv Art Museum. He finished in his usual terse manner. “The state of Israel is established! The meeting is ended.” At midnight, British rule over Palestine lapsed; 11 minutes later White House spokesman Charlie Ross announced U.S. recognition.
In 1961 long after was out of office, Truman met with Israeli PM David Ben Gurion in NY. In writing about the meeting, Ben Gurion explained:
At our last meeting, after a very interesting talk, just before [the President] left me – it was in a New York hotel suite – I told him that as a foreigner I could not judge what would be his place in American history; but his helpfulness to us, his constant sympathy with our aims in Israel, his courageous decision to recognize our new state so quickly and his steadfast support since then had given him an immortal place in Jewish history. As I said that, tears suddenly sprang to his eyes. And his eyes were still wet when he bade me goodbye. I had rarely seen anyone so moved. I tried to hold him for a few minutes until he had become more composed, for I recalled that the hotel corridors were full of waiting journalists and photographers. He left.
A little while later, I too had to go out, and a correspondent came to me to ask, “Why was President Truman in tears when he left you?” I believe that I know. These were the tears of a man who had been subjected to calumny and vilification, who had persisted against powerful forces within his own Administration determined to defeat him. These were the tears of a man who had fought ably and honorably for a humanitarian goal to which he was deeply committed. These were tears of thanksgiving that his God had seen fit to bless his labors with success.
How times have changed. In 1948 our president used a moral compass to decide foreign policy. Truman was a president who judged not whether things would make America popular in the Arab world, but whether it was the right thing for the US. The man from Independence, Mo. knew the best thing for America’s future was for to grab the moral leadership position of the entire world.
Today our president today sees the U.S., not as the leader of the free world, but one of many countries on the planet. He rejects America’s moral leadership, and sees Americans as a flawed people. Just look at the tepid fight against ISIS, how he has abandoned Ukraine, ignoring the red line he set in Syria, or the Iran deal which put most of the middle east, and the United States in grave danger. Like most of his agenda, Obama’s “lead from behind strategy” is serving to drive this country towards mediocrity and put our children and grandchildren in danger.
Evil regimes no longer fear America as they saw this weak President “negotiate’ with Iran by giving the terrorist supporting nation everything it wanted. He criticized Hamas for using its civilians as human shields but blamed Israel for civilian casualties.
It makes one wonder; Would Barack Obama have had the moral courage to recognize the new Jewish State the way that Harry Truman did 67 years ago or would he have led from behind?
Sadly, the most probable answer is NO.