1948 — U.S. Recognition of Israel was Touch and Go!

It was by no means a foregone conclusion. This is a good day to ask what the course of history during the last sixty-three years would have been if, in 1948 after the British Mandate had ended, the Americans had not recognized the Jewish state in Palestine.

Powerful forces – mainly in the State Department – opposed recognition, on the grounds that Saudi friendship was critical – not least because of oil – that Zionists were communists and that American forces, possibly needed in Eastern Europe to fight the Soviets, might be asked to defend a Jewish state against the Arabs. And President Truman, who had strongly favoured the Partition Plan, was getting impatient with the constant pestering by Zionist lobbyists.

As early as November 25, 1945, he had written to Senator Joseph Ball of Minnesota: “It is a very explosive situation we are facing, and naturally I regret it very much, but I don’t think that you, or any of the other Senators, would be inclined to send half a dozen Divisions to Palestine to maintain a Jewish state.

“What I am trying to do is to make the whole world safe for the Jews. Therefore, I don’t feel like going to war for Palestine.”

A quote from an article by Ami Isseroff, which appeared in MidEAST WEB, summarizes the situation in 1948:

“A binational state was opposed by both the Arabs and the Jews, and would have come apart at the seams as soon as it was established. The single state for all proposed by the Arabs, led by Nazi collaborator Haj Amin el Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, was not likely to be a state where Jews would survive in peace, given that Husseini had told the British that his plan for solving the ‘Jewish Problem’ in Palestine was the same as the one adopted by Nazis in Europe. Certainly, such a state would not allow immigration of Jews from Europe and, therefore, a civil war would have ensued whatever decision the U.N. made, as soon as the British had left. The U.N. was unwilling and unable to enforce even its decision to partition Jerusalem. No country outside the Middle East was willing to send troops to Palestine after Britain left, so no trusteeship schemes or other alternatives could have been enforced.”

In history, every moment is cross-roads; the road taken is never pre-ordained. But it is surely safe to say that, if the State Department had prevailed and Truman had not recognized Israel, the history of the Middle East in the last sixty-three years would have been at least as turbulent as it has been.


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