On May 12th, 1948 President Harry S. Truman held a meeting with his top advisers in the Oval Office. Subject: an independent Jewish nation in Palestine.
Secretary of State George C. Marshall and his deputy, Robert Lovett, made the case for delaying recognition.
Truman turned to his young and able adviser Clark Clifford, and with the partition of his hand said, "Delay really means deny" (1).
Clark Clifford presented the case for immediate recognition. When Clifford finished Marshall turned red with anger, and exploded: "I don't even know why Clifford is here? He is a domestic adviser, and this is a foreign policy matter!" Marshall turned to President Truman, and declared, "If you go through with this I cannot support you in the next election (1).
All heads turned toward the president. With frozen eyebrows above his spectacles, he said nothing. There was a stunned vacuum of silence, which seemed to take the fresh air with it, and then heated viral whispers grew into shouts of accusations.
From this a chaotic split formed a major fault-line, each side blaming the other for choosing self-interest. Marshall was a man of considerable clout, not to be taken lightly. But he worried himself over alienating the Arab countries, which held influence with oil.
The meeting fell into disarray, and was adjourned, but not before the president himself was accused of attempting to gain the Jewish vote for his re-election bid. But concerning the rebirth of a Jewish nation, it was for the president, a matter of conviction, fostered from his childhood and Sunday school teaching at a Baptist church in rural Missouri.
May 14th, 1948: the president in his office, which overlooked the Rose Garden.
That day more than 600,000 Jew's gathered together in Palestine and declared statehood. A sea of Jewish refugees from all over the world wept for joy as one nation. The whole world held its breadth, waiting for reaction from the United States. Bloodshed between Arab and Jew was ominous.
The president looked out from his office. Petals lifted from cherry trees into a mild breeze, like a silent garden parade. Manicured roses politely bowed in his reflection. As he clutched the pen in his hand, it was to him a spiritual awakening of memories in his childhood, which now swept through his mind, moments before his signature.
He closed his eyes and remembered how they would hitch up the wagon from his family farm heading off to church, where he learned the Jew's were God's chosen people. He remembered how proudly they walked into church as a family hand in hand, with bibles tucked neatly under their arms. He read his bible countless times as a youngster, and believed its promises.
Away from his desk near the door, the solemn voice of his most trusted advisor Clark Clifford called to him, and brought his mind back to the present. "Mr. President. It's time."
The president turned away for a moment attempting to extinguish a warm tear that slid under his spectacles.
At exactly 6:11 PM the United States of America recognized the de-facto nation of Israel, the first partner to stand for its cause. This forever changed the course of Jewish history, and with the stroke of a president's pen, confirmed one of God's oldest promises to an ancient Israel.
Early 1949, Israel's chief rabbi visited the president.
The rabbi told him that God had chosen him while he was in his mother's womb. He talked through the history of Jewish dispersions, and compared him to King Cyrus of the Old Testament, and started reading this passage aloud (2).
Some advisors attempted to lean into the reading, afraid that the Rabbi was being too dramatic, but as they turned to see the expression on President Truman's face they saw tears streaming down his cheeks, unabated (2).
"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion." (Psalm 137:1, KJV) A favorite verse of scripture Harry S. Truman read as a child (2).
* Direct sources:
1. Reporter Richard Holbrooke: A Washington Post Columnist. "Truman's Battle for Israel's Recognition Revealed." Israel News. www.ynetnews.com
2. Michael T. Benson, Southern Utah Univ., "Us Foreign Policy in the Middle East, Harry S. Truman, and the State of Israel."
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