Today in Israel is Yom Ha’atzmaut (day of independence), the 72nd birthday (by the Hebrew calendar) of the modern State of Israel. On this day, 72 years ago, the world saw an actual miracle from God. After almost two millennia, the Jewish people were able to re-establish their political and geographic nation-state in their ancestral homeland as Israel declared her independence.
After the Bar Kochba revolt in 135 CE, the Romans punished the Judeans (Jews) for revolting for the second time in sixty years. To poke those rebellious Judeans in the eye, the Romans changed the name of their country from Judea to Syria Palaestina. The Romans used Palaestina after the ancient enemy of the Jews, the Philistines. Not that there were Philistines around anymore (they had disappeared from existence around eight hundred years earlier). The Byzantine Empire took control of the Holy Land around the year 330 C.E., and in the year 638, it was conquered by Muslim Arab forces and the Ottoman Empire. After WWI, Great Britain was given Palestine to control.
But less than three decades later, on this day in 1948, the hopes and prayers of so many generations of Jews, those living in the Holy Land, and those in the Diaspora had finally been fulfilled, thanks in a big way to an American President.
There is a song Jews sing every Hanukkah called “Who can retell.” The lyrics of this song also applies to the birth of Israel 72 years ago. “Who can retell the things that befell us, Who can count them?, In every age, a hero or sage, Came to our aid.” For the birth of Israel in 1948, the hero who came to our aid was the American President Harry S Truman.
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 first world leader to recognize Israel, and he did so over the objections of a man who was considered at the time a national hero Secretary of State George Marshall. At the time, Marshall was much more popular with the American people than President Truman, who at that point had never been elected to the Oval Office, he was the relatively unknown V.P. who took over when FDR passed away.
This President didn’t make this decision because of politics, but like so many of Truman’s policies, he supported Israel because he thought it was the right thing to do. Of course, some attributed Truman’s stance to something else.
Based on the Democratic Party’s move away from support of the Jewish State over the past decade, it may be reasonable to believe that if Harry Truman tried to overrule the popular Marshall today, the Democratic party of Barack Obama, Rep Omar and the Farrakhan supporting Congressional Black Caucus might try to impeach their own President. At the very least, they would certainly vehemently object. The Democrats might even have tried to negate the U.N. Partition Plan, as most in the State Department recommended to Truman in 1948. But a move like repealing the partition plan 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 and end the British Mandate over Palestine,
Secretary of State George Marshall (Time’s 1947 Man of the Year) was an international hero who was just as opposed to the creation of Israel just as forcefully as Truman, who had no voter base, was for it.
Clark M. Clifford, Special Counsel to President Truman, remembered the internal Truman administration fight regarding the recognition of the Jewish State, and the final discussion in the Oval Office. The meeting turned out to be a fierce battle with Clifford and the President on one side, Marshall and Undersecretary of State Robert Lovett on the other Undersecretary of State 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 (all of those Jews are commies).
Clark Clifford, who recommended that the President recognize the nascent State 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. 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 chirped in by accusing Truman of only trying to get the Jewish vote (a charge that angered Truman to his dying day).
“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. [At the time the UN was considering withdrawel of the partition plan] 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.
Marshall piped in with a political threat:
He was still furious. Speaking with barely contained rage and more than a hint of self-righteousness, he made the mostremarkablethreat Clifford says he 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.
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 (see video below). He finished in his usual terse manner. “The State of Israel is established! The meeting is ended.”
A few hours later, at midnight, British rule over Palestine lapsed–11 minutes later White House spokesman Charlie Ross announced U.S. recognition.
When Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog visited the White House after Israel’s independence declaration, 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.”
In 1961 long after he was out of office, Truman met with Israeli PM David Ben Gurion in N.Y. 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.
Truman was a president who judged not whether things would make America popular in the Arab world. He decided based on whether it was the right thing for the U.S. The man from Independence, Mo. knew the best thing for America’s future was to grab the moral leadership position of the entire world.
Beyond morality, Truman’s recognition was the right move for America.
Since the creation of Israel, while the U.S. has provided Israel with vital economic and military support, what most people don’t understand is that it is a two-way street. Israel has contributed to American security through counterterrorism training, intelligence sharing and military innovations as unmanned aerial vehicles and missile defense.
Israel has also shared with Americans advances in the high-tech, medical sectors that have helped maintain American economic competitiveness and communications. Israel’s breakthroughs in irrigation technology have helped American farmers to feed the world. There is so much more–but that is a different post.
Today, the political descendants of Harry Truman appease the extreme leftists who have gained control of their party by opposing the Jewish State. Today’s Democrat party is controlled by anti-Israel leftists who may have tried to impeach Truman if he decided to recognize the new State of Israel today, or maybe they would only try to “string him up.”
But thankfully, God put Harry Truman in the White House to recognize Israel and, after eight years of an Anti-Israel President, put Donald Trump in the White House to repair the U.S./Israel relationship.
Yom Ha’atzmaut, Yom Ha’atzmaut,Yom Ha’atzmaut, Yom Ha’atzmaut, Yom Ha’atzmaut, Yom Ha’atzmaut. Yom Ha’atzmaut. Yom Ha’atzmaut.