Why Israel Exists: Truman Made That Decision


U.S. President Harry Truman alone made the decision to create the nation of Israel — no one else, not Britain’s Government, not its Balfour Declaration, and not Chaim Weizmann nor David Ben Gurion, nor any other individual or organization, did. He did it himself.

Here, in his own words — some directly from him, and others from one of his advisors who worked with him on it — is the reasoning that led him to do this:

outtakes from a post-presidency (“early 1962”) documentary about Truman:


“MP2002-343 Former President Truman Discusses Prejudice Against Jewish People”

“I found in the United States a lot of bigotry and opposition to Jews, as such. Which I could never understand, for the simple reason that the Jewish people gave us our moral code entirely. And I had a partner when I first got out of the White House and moved back to Kansas City, a fellow by the name of Eddie Jacobsen, and he and I [had, at the start of my career] started a haberdashery store and we went broke and lost a lot of money. I furnished the money, and Eddie furnished the know-how. And when we went broke, why, they first headed me into bankruptcy. They couldn’t put me into bankruptcy, because I was on the county court, that was long before I was President of the United States. And, of course, when the thing was all over, and Eddie became prosperous after that, he met his share of those losses. And that’s my idea of a good dude!” [But, as Truman’s close aide, Clark Clifford, will explain, “Eddie” had nothing to do with shaping Truman’s decision.]


“MP2002-477 Former President Truman Discusses the Challenges of Establishing Israel in Palestine”

“We had several other people in the country, even among the Jews, the Zionists particularly, who were against anything that was to be done if they couldn’t have the whole of Palestine, everything handed to them on a silver plate so they wouldn’t have to do anything. It couldn’t be done. We had to take it in small doses. You can’t move five or six million people out of a country and fill it up with five or six million more and expect both sets of them to be pleased.” (So, he favored some ethnic cleansing there, but not all of it — which the Zionists wanted to do.)


“MP2002-344 Former President Truman Discusses the Establishment of Israel”

“Don’t think that the decision to recognize Israel was an easy one. I had to make a compromise with the Arabs and divide Palestine. The Jews want to chase all the Arabs into the Tigris and Euphrates River, and the Arabs want to chase all the Jews into the Red Sea. And what I was trying to do is to find a homeland for the Jews and still be just with the Arabs.” (He never said what “just with the Arabs” meant.)


“MP2002-345 Former President Truman Discusses Mediating Two Sides”

“There they were on both sides. There I was in the middle between both sides. I was in the position of the referee in a prize ring when the two big wrestlers turned on the referee instead of going ahead with the wrestling. I was in real trouble.” (The Truman Library says that Truman is probably referring there to the arguments over the recognition of Israel, but that film-clip includes no surrounding context, not even the question that he was responding to.)




“An Exclusive Interview With Clark Clifford”

April 1977, American Heritage magazine

Q: What do you think were the motives of those in the State Department who fought so hard against the Jewish state? It has been suggested in some quarters that anti-Semitism was involved.

A: I would not make that charge. The motives, I might suggest, were twofold. To begin with, at that time the British influence on the State Department, particularly when it came to Near Eastern affairs, was very strong. The British had been the mandatory power for all those years, they knew the personalities and the issues and the geography, and they were listened to. Of course, the original British intent under the Balfour Declaration had been to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine. But in 1948 that declaration was “old stuff” to the British foreign office, a policy shaped before some of its members were even born. They were not influenced by it, and as a result, neither was our own State Department. [NOTE: ‘historians’ who presume that the Balfour Declaration played a role in Israel’s coming into existence are not historians. In fact, the UK’s Foreign Office in 1948 was actually opposed to there being any Israel.]

Then, too, our military advisers, with rather unusual prescience, looked twenty-five years ahead and foresaw our coming great dependence on oil. It was rather foresighted of them, in fact. [Not so: FDR was very actively discussing with King Saud the question of a possible Israel becoming established in Palestine, and he knew that in the post-War  period, a U.S.-Saudi partnership would be vitally important. This belief came from FDR, not from “the military,” nor from “the State Department.”] But they assumed that the only possible way to secure the oil was to placate the Arabs, because the Arabs were going to win any conflict with the Zionists. I remember Jim Forrestal [first Secretary of Defense, 1947-49] telling me once: “Look, Clark, it’s simple arithmetic. There are 450,000 Jews out there, and thirty-five million Arabs. The Arabs are going to push the Jews into the sea.” [That statement, too, reflects Clifford’s having been close to Truman, never to FDR.]

You see, both the State Department and the military leaders were thinking in purely strategic terms, for which they can’t be blamed. But they were totally ignoring humanitarian and moral considerations. The President understood the strategic problems involved, but he always approached the issue with a deep concern for the fate of the Jews who had suffered so terribly during the war, and with an urge to do something for the survivors. He was always a great fan of the underdog, you must remember, because he identified himself with underdogs. And his own reading of ancient history and the Bible made him a supporter of the idea of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, even when others who were sympathetic to the plight of the Jews were talking of sending them to places like Brazil. He did not need to be convinced by Zionists. In fact, he had to work hard to avoid the appearance of yielding to Zionist pressure, and that was one of the reasons why some Zionist tactics which were blatant and clumsy were actually counterproductive. All in all, he believed that the surviving Jews deserved some place that was historically their own. I remember him talking once about the problems of repatriating displaced persons. “Every one else who’s been dragged away from his country has someplace to get back to,” he said. “But the Jews have no place to go.”

Q: Did he ever talk to you about the role of his friend and former business partner Eddie Jacobsen, who is said to have influenced him in this direction?

A: Yes, he did. But of course it’s important to emphasize that Eddie Jacobsen did not in any way influence Harry Truman’s decision on the recognition of Israel. He did, in fact, as the President stated in his memoirs, come to visit the White House, and he urged the President to see Chaim Weizmann, which he did. The President was glad to see him as an old friend, but he was perfectly aware that Jacobsen was not familiar with the overall situation, and that he had been sent to see him by the Zionists, who naturally would use every conceivable channel to the President. He didn’t mind, but he told me that he said to him, in effect: “Eddie, don’t get involved in this. It’s more complicated than you understand.”

Q: One final question about politics. By the spring of 1948, Henry Wallace was in the presidential race; the Dixiecrat walkout hadn’t happened but was in the offing. Surely some of the President’s advisers must have thought of the political impact of any decision on the Jewish state.

A: By that spring we had polls showing that Wallace was doing very well in New York — that he was murdering us, in fact. He didn’t have a majority, but he was going to get many, many votes — he did wind up with about 500,000—and they would all come from our camp, not from Dewey’s. So, frankly, we had written off New York. We knew Wallace was going to cost us the state, and the President therefore had no possible motive for recognition of Israel that was based on a bid for the “New York Jewish vote.” That was simply not a factor.


In short: Truman assumed that “the Jews” were the “underdogs”; he was the umpire; and God had given that land to “the Jews” who “gave us our moral code entirely”; but he didn’t want to give them everything, because “the Arabs” had oil and wouldn’t tolerate his giving “the Jews” all of the land that the Zionists (which perhaps Truman thought all Jews were) were demanding (his thinking was loaded with unexamined and thus even unstated assumptions) — all of Palestine.

In other words: If the Bible hadn’t said that God gave land there to “the Jews”; or, if Truman hadn’t thought that the Bible instead of the U.S. Constitution “gave us our moral code entirely”; or, if Truman hadn’t thought that the Palestinians (the overwhelming majority population) were the “top dog” on the question of whether a “Jewish nation” should be established on their land; then probably the result would have been no Israel, which his immediate predecessor, FDR, would almost certainly have been intending for the outcome to be — a flat no to the Zionists (whom FDR despised — and he recognized that not all Jews were Zionists; FDR knew the difference between “Zionists” and “Jews”; Truman did not).

Bottom line: If FDR had survived, it’s almost certain that there would have been no Israel. And this had nothing to do with anti-Semitism; it had to do with FDR’s not being racist, in any way except, perhaps, his being anti-Japanese. Also important was that FDR did not believe that “the Jewish people gave us our moral code entirely.” He knew that the Constitution isn’t, at all, based upon the Bible. FDR was a genius, but Truman was anything but that, and quickly reversed FDR’s foreign policies 180 degrees, so that America’s foreign policies after FDR are almost the opposite of what FDR had been aiming for — whereas FDR was intensely anti-imperialistic, Truman aimed to turn America into the world’s first-ever all-encompassing empire, dictating to all other countries. Truman created the Military-Industrial Complex, the “standing army” that America’s Founders had condemned, and the CIA and so much more, including its numerous coups and ongoing “regime-change” operations, to grow the empire. We live in Truman’s world, not in FDR’s (except for his social programs that lasted).

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