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Recognizing Israel

July 2024
20min read

The behind-the-scenes struggle in 1948 between the President and the State Department

In the nearly thirty years that have passed since President Harry Truman issued the directives to support the partition of Palestine and afterward to recognize the State of Israel, the motivations of the President have been the subject of extensive historical discussion. A school of revisionist historiography has emerged which argues that President Truman’s Palestine policy was motivated by the purely political consideration of wooing the Jewish electoral vote. This argument casts a shroud of suspicion over the Truman Presidency, and portrays the birth of Israel, one of the most seminal events of modern times, as somehow illicit and ignoble. I had the privilege of serving as White House Counsel during this period and was in a position to observe the attitude of the President and the role of the State Department toward the Middle East. I am gratified that my recollections ofthat period are confirmed by documents now available. It is clear to me that the facts totally refute the assumptions of the revisionists.

Harry Truman assumed the Presidency at a critical moment in American history. His task was to look beyond the imminent defeat of the Axis and to begin the formulation of a comprehensive policy for the postwar era. He well appreciated that international peace and security were impossible until the havoc of the war was repaired by an American policy of enlightened rehabilitation. Not the least of the havoc, surely, was the appalling tragedy inflicted upon the Jewish people, hundreds of thousands of whose pathetic survivors were still impacted in the displaced persons camps of Europe. By then Harry Truman’s long history of sympathy for the underdog, in politics, economics, and religion, was a matter of record. Moreover, the President had evinced a sympathetic understanding of Zionism since his early manhood. As he wrote later in his autobiography: I had familiarized myself with the history of the question of a Jewish homeland and the position of the British and the Arabs. I was skeptical … about some of the views and attitudes assumed by the “stripedpants boys” in the State Department. It seemed to me that they didn’t care enough about what happened to the thousands of displaced persons who were involved. It was my feeling that it would be possible for us to watch out for the long-range interests of our country while at the same time helping these unfortunate victims of persecution to find a home.

To that end, the President appealed to Prime Minister Churchill, and afterward to Clement Attlee, Churchill’s successor, to facilitate the immediate transfer of 100,000 Jewish refugees to Palestine. In June of 1945, too, the President directed a personal representative, Earl G. Harrison, to visit the DP camps and to make recommendations for alleviating the refugees’ plight. In his report afterward, Harrison pointed out that the Jews alone of European displaced persons had no ethnic sanctuary awaiting them on the Continent. “They want to be evacuated to Palestine now,” Harrison wrote, “just as other national groups [are] being repatriated to their homes.” The report concluded that “the civilized world owes it [to these] survivors to provide them with a home where they can settle down … to live as human beings.”

The President was deeply moved. In late summer he wrote General Eisenhower, instructing the general to extend every facility to house and feed the Jewish survivors. The President then once more pressed the British to lift their restrictions against Jewish refugees in Palestine. But as he embarked toward this humanitarian goal, the President encountered the opposition not only of the British government, but of elements within the United States State Department. From the outset, the department’s Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs made it its business to block Harry Truman from implementing a policy that was animated by his deepest human instincts. For one thing, they warned the President that he was contravening the approach adopted by his predecessor. Franklin Roosevelt had indeed met Ibn Saud, the Arabian monarch, in February of 1945, and on the basis of the summary drawn of the meeting by the American minister to Riyadh, evidently had promised that the United States would “not assist the Jews against the Arabs,” and “would make no move hostile” toward them. These views ostensibly were further endorsed in a letter from Roosevelt to Ibn Saud on April 5.

As it happened, my predecessor as Special Counsel to President Truman, Samuel Rosenman, who had been associated with Roosevelt since 1929, pointed out to President Truman that F.D.R.—s letter of April 5 had been drafted by the State Department’s Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs and hardly represented Roosevelt’s most concentrated thinking. This view was confirmed by Admiral William Leahy, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was present with F.D. R when the latter met with Ibn Saud. In a memorandum to President Truman, Leahy commented: “I do not believe that President Roosevelt at any time said he would not support a plan to establish a Jewish colony in Palestine.” In any case, Harry Truman had come to the Presidency at a time when the trauma of the displaced persons first became acute, as it had not in Roosevelt’s lifetime. With a clear conscience, and out of deep conviction, President Truman continued to press for the admission of 100,000 Jewish survivors into Palestine.

Then, in October, 1945, bedeviled by the Palestine issue, London invited the United States to participate in a joint Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry to study and report on the problem of the Jews in British- and American-occupied sectors of Germany. The President accepted the invitation, but set as his price assurance that the British would accept Palestine as the central Jewish refuge. Again, however, the NEA (as I shall now call the State Department’s Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs) did its best to uphold the British pro-Arab position and to thwart the President’s intentions. Their methods left a good deal to be desired. Thus, the NEA voiced opposition to the appointment of Bartley Crum, publisher, lawyer, and proZionist, to the committee, on the grounds that Crum was “associated with a number of Communist or semiCommunist organizations.” I knew Crum, and this statement was untrue. As shall be seen, however, it was consistent with the NEA’s pattern in future months and years to establish a link between Communism and the Zionists. In any event, Crum was appointed to the committee and served on it conscientiously.

When, finally, the Anglo-American Committee issued its report on May I, 1946, it stated that there was no reasonable sanctuary for the Jewish survivors except in Palestine. The report then urged the admission of 100,000 Jews into Palestine immediately and a political solution for the Holy Land that would ensure substantial future immigration there. President Truman was pleased by this consensus and publicly endorsed it, recommending that its immigration provisions be implemented forthwith. Matters were not to be that simple. British Foreign Secretary Bevin objected to the committee’s recommendations, and insisted rather on yet another joint governmental committee to consider the problems implicit in putting the report into effect. Somewhat reluctantly, the President agreed to the establishment of a special body under the joint chairmanship of Britain’s Herbert Morrison and of Dr. Henrv Grady, an American assistant secretary of state.

As the President should have known, feedine a State Department official to the British was like feeding a Christian to the lions. The group issued its report at the end of July, and it became clear that Grady and his associates had fully swallowed the British position. Under the report’s provisions, Palestine would have been transformed into a trusteeship of Jewish and Arab provinces, in which the Jewish sector, the smallest, would include only 17 per cent of the country. Although 100,000 Jews would be proposed for admission into this postage-stamp entity, even this figure would be dependent upon Arab and British approval. If the Zionists furiously rejected the report, President Truman was hardly less outraged. The “province” offered the Jews, he insisted, was little more than a territorial ghetto. As he wrote later: “I studied the plan with care, but I was unable to see that anything would come out of it except more unrest.” Determined to give strength to his sentiments on the refugees, the President then issued a statement-of greeting to the American Jewish community on October 4, the eve of Yom Kippur. It affirmed his personal support of partition as the best solution to the Palestine question, then urged once again that “substantial” Jewish immigration into Palestine be allowed forthwith. Although the British—and revisionist historians—have described this Yom Kippur statement as a play for the Jewish vote, those of us close to the President knew better. It expressed his deepest convictions on the sheer human tragedy of the Jewish refugees. Indeed, the President had repeatedly made clear to us that only through the partition of Palestine into viable Jewish and Arab states could the fate of the Jewish survivors be solved in a decent and enlightened way.

Apparently the British, too, recognized by then that they were unable to cope with the festering Palestine issue on their own. In April, 1947, Attlee and Bevin somewhat despairingly turned the whole matter over to the United Nations. Thus, the following month, the UN General Assembly selected a committtee of eleven member states—UNSCOP—to investigate, study, and recommend a comprehensive solution for the Palestine imbroglio.

On August 31, 1947, UNSCOP issued a majority report fully endorsing the concept of partition. The President was quietly gratified. At his orders, therefore, Secretary of State George Marshall on September 17 addressed the UN General Assembly and announced American support for the partition solution. Again, the President’s approach was consistent. Partition struck him not only as humanitarian to the Jews, and fair to the Arabs, but in the long run as the most logical course for peace in Palestine. As he saw it, there was little valid alternative to the partition plan. Both Arabs and Jews had insisted that they would not accept the UNSCOP minority report, with its involuted scheme for a federalized Palestine. Thus, partition claimed the support of a least one of the parties to the dispute, the Jews. The President hoped a surgical act of partition would resolve the issue in the swiftest and least painful way.

But the State Department group did not see it that way. Several days later Loy Henderson, who earlier had described the UNSCOP majority plan as unprincipled and “full of sophistry,” wrote Marshall complaining that the “partitioning of Palestine and the setting up of a Jewish State [is opposed] by practically every member of the Foreign Service and of the Department who has been engaged … with the Near and Middle East.” This may have been true. Rather than swallow their discomfiture, however, and accept the President’s orders, these department officials preferred rather to oppose presidential policy.

In late July of 1947, for example, during the UNSCOP hearings, Marshall brought the White House a memorandum, drafted by the NEA desk, recommending the nomination of State Department officers as advisers to the American UN delegation. These men were Phillip Jessup and John Ross. It may not even have occurred to Marshall that the appointment of these men projected at the least a signal of ambivalence on the government’s Palestine position. In fact, it was only over Marshall’s objections that the President succeeded in adding a third member, Major General John Hilldring, who had won the respect of the Zionists for his handling of the displaced persons problem in Europe. As it turned out, Hilldring was the indispensable conduit through whom the White House was kept abreast of the Palestine negotiations in the United Nations.

Later, too, as the UNSCOP reports were being debated in the General Assembly, the President had agreed that he would approve only minor refinements in the majority report before it was submitted to a final vote. Yet Truman was not informed that a plan was afoot, one that again originated in Henderson’s office, to remove the Negev Desert from the proposed Jewish state and reduce the latter’s size to something resembling the ghetto envisaged in the rejected Morrison-Grady plan. Even Warren Austin, our ambassador to the UN Security Council, and surely no pro-Zionist, warned that if the American delegation pressed for an amputation of the Negev “a major doubt” would be raised “as to the justice of the partition plan,” and partition might then be rejected altogether. Truman learned of this attempt to circumvent his policy from the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann. Immediately the President phoned Hilldring in New York and instructed him to countermand the proposed amputation. As Matt ConnelIy, President Truman’s appointments secretary, has written, the President by then was intensely annoyed by the State Department’s sabotage efforts. Indeed, word was sent to Hilldring afterward that henceforth the latter was “to operate independently and without restraint” from the NEA.


By the autumn of 1947, as the partition issue reached its climax in the United Nations, the State Department cast doubt upon the Jewish community in Palestine and its potential Jewish immigrants. The department’s Office of European Affairs accepted the credibility of reports that “Soviets and Communists are using Jewish migrations for infiltration purposes.” A spokesman for the department warned that “Jewish immigration may be used by the U.S.S.R. as a means of establishing a Communist state at the eastern extremity of the Mediterranean.” The purpose of this unproved warning was to justify the continuation of the British blockade against Jewish immigration at the very moment the President was requesting that the port of Haifa be made available to accept Jewish immigrants.

In the months following the UN Partition Resolution of November 29, 1947, fighting broke out in Palestine, as the Arab majority in the hill areas sought to throttle Jewish supply routes to Jerusalem and outlying Zionist farm colonies. By the spring of 1948 it began to appear as if a fullscale Arab invasion might follow the scheduled termination of the British mandate. It was against the background of these hostilities that the American delegation to the UN dropped a bombshell of its own. On March 19, 1948, Ambassador Austin, speaking before the Security Council, recommended that partition be suspended and that a special session of the General Assembly be convened to consider the establishment of a temporary trusteeship over Palestine. The Zionists and their supporters, of course, were horrified. They asked how the President could have abandoned partition when only the day before he had assured Chaim Weizmann of continued United States support.

In truth, Harry Truman had not abandoned his support of partition. The evidence, which includes documents that are not found in the recently published fifth volume of Foreign Relations of the United States , confirms again that the President was not being well served on the implementation of American policy regarding Palestine. The trusteeship proposal was a case in point. Within the State Department, the opponents of partition theorized that the UN Security Council, while it might have been authorized by the Charter to determine if the Palestine violence threatened international peace, nevertheless was not empowered to effect “political settlements.” Thus, if the Security Council decided that a threat to the peace existed, it conceivably could dispatch forces to Palestine to halt internecine strife, but not to implement partition. This was their initial rationale for their long-cherished ambition for displacing partition with a trusteeship solution.

But in fact the lawyers in the State Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser rejected this rationale, and their opinion was similarly confirmed by a group of UN Charter experts who met at the State Department on February 10, 1948. In a document prepared for Legal Adviser Ernest Gross, his assistant maintained that “… the authority of the Security Council subsisted regardless of the consideration that the Council’s authority … to maintain or restore peace and security might [legitimately] facilitate implementation of the General Assembly’s partition plan.” This caveat was ignored by the NEA group, and to my knowledge was never passed on to the White House. Worse yet, unknown to me and my colleagues on the President’s staff, there was still another section within the State Department that took exception to the policies of the NEA. It was the department’s Division of International Security Affairs. In February, 1948, this section stated that: The record of several of the Arab States in conspiring and executing a campaign of aggression against the Jewish community in Palestine is quite clear. … It must also be recognized that there is no basis at present for a finding that the acts of the Palestinian Jews constitute an “attempt to alter by force the settlement envisaged” by the General Assembly Resolution. … Jewish immigration is illegal only because it does not conform to the regulations of the mandatory power.

This division then recommended the imposition of an arms embargo against certain Arab states and the arming of a Jewish militia in Palestine. Going further, the Division of International Security Affairs similarly contended that there were indeed military, economic, and diplomatic measures that the United States could initiate through the UN body to facilitate the implementation of partition. Yet this dissenting view, like that of the Legal Adviser, was, to my knowledge, never presented to Secretary Marshall, let alone to the White House. Instead, Marshall was persuaded to argue the unworkability of partition in his meetings with the President, and to express this view as though it represented the full consensus of the State Department.

Intent, then, upon setting the policy guidelines for the statement to be issued by Ambassador Austin, Robert McClintock of the Office of United Nations Affairs drafted the ambassador’s speech, first as a preliminary statement of February 24, and then as the bombshell of March 19. McClintock was sure the final address “would knock the plan for partition on the head.” But in fact Harry Truman had a completely different conception of what the implications of the speech would be. He had emphasized to Marshall that Austin was authorized to call for a special session of the General Assembly and to propose a UN trusteeship only under three qualifications: 1) that the conciliatory machinery of the Security Council must be completely exhausted; 2) that the Council itself must then vote to propose an alternative to partition; and 3) that the Council similarly must vote to reject partition altogether. In imposing these qualifications, the President later wrote that little could be said for a Palestine solution that would destroy 100,000 Jewish lives so that another 100,000 Jewish immigrants could be saved.

The President’s qualifications did not appear in Austin’s famous statement of March 19. To this day I remember the bewilderment and consternation that were evoked by the trusteeship speech. The President instructed me to “find out how this could have happened.” As he said: “I assured Chaim Weizmann that we were for partition and would stick to it. He must think I am a plain liar.” He asked me to ascertain if Marshall had foreknowledge of this virtual abandonment of partition. When I investigated the next day I learned in fact that both Marshall and Undersecretary Robert Lovett had known in advance of the de facto reversal of the President’s policy. President Truman was simply confounded. He felt he could not repudiate his own Secretary of State without appearing to have lost control of United States foreign policy. Yet he was entirely unwilling to reverse his long-standing commitment to partition. “They have made me out a liar and a double-crosser,” he said tome. “We are sunk.”

On March 24, therefore, the President chaired an emergency gathering of the White House staff and several representatives from the State Department, including Marshall, Henderson, and Rusk. It was an afternoon to remember. When Truman sought to reconcile his support for partition with the concept of trusteeship, Henderson objected. He argued that partition should be considered dead and buried. The President rejected this course out of hand. Instead, he charged me with preparing a document that would seek to adapt the trusteeship proposal to partition. We worked on the draft through the night, and had it ready by our 9 A.M. staff meeting on the twenty-fifth. The statement reaffirmed American support for partition, and referred to trusteeship only as an interim measure intended simply to prevent large-scale violence in. Palestine upon the termination of the British mandate. I doubt that the statement satisfied either Jews or Arabs.

In any case, the Zionist leadership in Palestine categorically rejected any notion of a trusteeship. David BenGurion announced that he and his colleagues already were laying plans for a provisional Jewish government, and that they would not be deterred. I suspect that Truman was privately pleased by this unequivocal response. Admittedly, the likelihood of major warfare in the Holy Land was becoming a near certainty by April, 1948. The Arab governments had declared their intention of invading when the British withdrew. Personally, I believed that the Jews had the resourcefulness and strength to defend their position on their own. It was a view that was not generally expressed by our diplomatic and military “experts”—not even when the Jews succeeded in blasting open a supply route to Jerusalem and capturing Haifa. On the contrary, the State Department people were now in a state of despair at the emerging Jewish reality in Palestine. McClintock suggested that the United States call for the temporary suspension of partition and ask instead for an AngloAmerican-French “naval patrol of the Palestinian coast to prevent illegal immigration.” Another State Department representative described the situation as one where “the Jews will be the actual aggressors against the Arabs … [and] Arab armies from outside Palestine [will] cross the frontier to aid their disorganized and demoralized brethren who will be the objects of Jewish attack.” It was not until May 6 that Undersecretary Lovett, discerning the emergent pattern of events in the Holy Land, ordered the department’s staff to desist from all further efforts to suspend the partition resolution.

But the basic attitude of the department remained the same. On May 11 one of its senior officers,* Editor’s Note: This individual is identified as Dean Rusk on page 967 of Volume V, Foreign Relations of the United States, published in 1976 by the U.S. Government Printing Office. in a telephone call to Jessup and Ross in New York, made the comment that the Jews in Palestine were running their own affairs, which “was not according to plan.”

The major question now confronting the President was the decision regarding the recognition of the new Jewish state. The President called a meeting for May 12 so that the issue could be discussed in detail. Those present from the State Department were Marshall, Lovett, McClintock, and Fraser Wilkins, the latter a member of the NEA desk. David Niles and I were there at the President’s request.

President Truman opened the meeting by declaring that the new Jewish state would become a reality on May 14 and that he desired a full exposition of the views of those present. Marshall said that recognition would be a wholly inappropriate course of action and called upon Lovett to give the reasons. He did so with support from McClintock. I was then asked to respond. In considerable detail I presented what I knew to be the strong attitude of President Truman. The President also asked that I read a statement which we had drafted setting forth American policy on the issue.

This document reviewed recent diplomatic efforts on Palestine, and then, conscious of the historic overtones of the original Balfour Declaration, it added that the United States should declare the next day that it looked “with favor on the creation of a Jewish State in accordance with the provisions laid down in the [UN] Resolution of November 29.” I emphasized that early recognition of the Jewish state was consistent with the President’s policy from the outset, and that a Jewish state in fact already existed for all practical purposes. Considering the efforts expended on behalf of a Jewish homeland since the President assumed office, I argued that prompt recognition by this government would be an act of simple humanity and entirely symbolic of what this country should represent in world affairs. Indeed, there was no alternative to this course, a fact recognized by a majority in the United Nations; the State Department proposal for a truce and postponement of Jewish statehood would never be accepted by the Jews. On the contrary, it would encourage the Arabs to enlarge the scale of their violence.

I remember well the response from Marshall and Lovett. It can, of course, be found in the widely publicized “Marshall Memorandum” that appears in the recent volume of Foreign Relations. First, they argued that by advocating premature recognition we were adopting a procedure highly questionable under international law. I thought that this was without merit. Our draft simply “favored the creation” of a Jewish state and laid out guidelines by which recognition in the future could be extended. Then the Undersecretary intimated that we were in effect preparing to recognize “a pig in a poke.” At that point he pulled out a file of reports suggesting again that large numbers of the Jewish immigrants were Communists or Soviet agents. I felt that this was preposterous. Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe in fact were specifically fleeing the Communists. Marshall’s warning of protracted war was equally specious in my opinion. It seems clear now that it was indecision, the possibility that the Great Powers might yet abort the birth of the Jewish state, that had been encouraging Arab belligerence all along. And if, as the State Department people suggested, and as the Defense Department insisted, we were forfeiting our relations by contemplating recognition—well, we had managed to come through relatively unscathed thus far. (I must add, post factum , that not a single Arab nation severed relations with us upon our recognition of Israel, nor did a single drop of oil stop flowing from the Arab world to the United States or to other nations that supported partition or recognized Israel.)

The spirited exchange of views created such a sharp division and such emotional tension that the President concluded the meeting by suggesting that he was inclined to side with Marshall and that we should all sleep on it. After the others had left, the President told me that following a short cooling-off period we would get into it again.

As evidence of the President’s perspicacity in this regard, I received a telephone call later that day from Lovett. He indicated that he felt considerable uneasiness over the events of the morning and that he was going to talk it out with his associates. Further talks the next day indicated a definite shift in Lovett’s attitude, and the matter culminated at a luncheon that I had with Lovett on May 14, at which time we worked up a statement to be released by the White House at the time Israel became a nation. President Truman approved the statement and the United States became the first nation to recognize Israel, some sixteen minutes after it came into existence.

It was clear to me that Lovett was the moving force that caused the change toward the White House position. I believe he persuaded Marshall to alter his attitude despite the implacable opposition of the NEA to the very end.

The President’s decision to recognize Israel was also consistent with his approach to international affairs since his incumbency. Recognition of Israel struck him as fair, to begin with, because it was an implicit invitation to the Arabs to get on with the business of declaring sovereignty in their portion of Palestine. Secondly, Truman preferred to take the act of recognition out of the hands of the State Department because he had good reason by then to suspect those officials, and he feared that if the so-called experts were entrusted with the process of recognition, they might have used the weapon to extract further territorial or political concessions from the Jewish state—even at the last moment. Thirdly, he believed that an immediate act of American recognition not only would countenance a political and military fait accompli , and do so with a grace that would redound to the credit of the United States, but also that it would anticipate a similar move by the Soviet Union, which hardly deserved a monopoly on Israeli gratitude.

But most importantly of all, the President envisaged recognition as the logical culmination of his three years of personal diplomacy and sheer human concern for a people who had endured the torments of the damned, and whose instincts for survival and nationhood still refused to be extinguished.

President Truman was deeply incensed at what he considered to be the consistent attitude of obstructionism on the part of the State Department to his policy toward Palestine. He was angered even more at the innuendoes and ultimately the specific charge by the department that the only reason for the President’s position was his effort to curry favor with Jewish voters in this country.

The department’s attitude contained the implication that the only correct position was the one they advanced. There could not possibly be any meritorious alternative, so that to oppose them indicated the presence of an unworthy motive. This type of argument has no doubt existed since the dawn of history, but that doesn’t make it any easier to take.

Was politics a factor in the decisions that President Truman made during these extraordinarily difficult days? Of course it was. Under our system, political considerations are present in every important decision that a President makes. But in this instance it was a minor factor because of President Truman’s broad national strategy.

In some of the revisionist writing about this period, reference is made to a memorandum I submitted to President Truman in November, 1947. The strategy it recommended was based on the premise that if the Democrats won the South, and the states west of the Mississippi, we could afford to write off the electoral votes of New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Ohio with their large Jewish urban constituencies. I suggested that if we were to win the Jewish vote, it would be won on the Democratic party’s long-standing commitment to political and economic liberalism. An interesting quote from the memorandum is as follows: In the long run, there is likely to be greater gain if the Palestine problem is approached on the basis of reaching decisions founded upon intrinsic merit.

But the fact is, the President’s policy on the subject was his and his alone. He was angered by the charge that domestic politics was the determining factor in his decision. The charge implied that the President and those Americans who supported his policy were somehow disloyal and acting in opposition to our country’s best interests.

During 1947 and 1948 I heard President Truman express himself many times with reference to the Jewish problem. He had a deep, natural resentment against intolerance of any kind. He deplored the existence of Jewish ghettos and the cruel and persistent persecution. He never ceased to be horrified at the murder of some six million Jews by the Nazis. He was fully aware of the miserable status of the hundreds of thousands of Jews who had been displaced by the Second World War. As a student of the Bible, he believed in the historic justification for a Jewish homeland, and it was a conviction with him that the Balfour Declaration of 1917 constituted a solemn promise that fulfilled the age-old hope and dream of the Jewish people.

The effort of the revisionists to portray President Truman as risking the welfare of his country for cheap political advantage is bitterly resented by all of us who admired and respected him.

Some years later President Truman met David Ben-Gurion while both men were still in office. In Ben-Gurion’s memoirs he recalls the following: 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 good-by. 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 waitingjournalists and photographers. He left. A little while later, I too had to go out, and a correspondent came up to me to ask, “Why was President Truman in tears when he left you?”

I believe I know. These were the tears of a man who had been subjected to calumny and vilification, who had persisted against powerful forces determined to defeat him, who had contended with opposition even from within his own administration. These were the tears of a man who had fought ably and honorably for a humanitarian goal to which he was deeply dedicated.

These were tears of thanksgiving that his God had seen fit to bless his labors with success.

From Volume V, Foreign Relations of the United States, published by the U.S. Government Printing Office, 1976

March 8, 1948. Memorandum, Clark Clifford to President Harry Truman:

”… the Palestine problem should not be approached as a Jewish question, or an Arab question, or a United Nations question. The sole question is what is best for the United States of America.”

May 12, 1948. Memorandum of Conversation, Secretary of State George C. Marshall:

“The counsel offered by Mr. Clifford was based on domestic political considerations, while the problem which confronted us was international. I said bluntly that if the President were to follow Mr. Clifford’s advice and if in the elections I were to vote, I would vote against the President.”
An Exclusive Interview with Clark Clifford

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