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Harry S. Truman on His 1948 Proclamation Recognizing Israel
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As for your interest in the proclamation of May 14, 1948, any document or statement issued by the President goes through a series of statements to make certain of its accuracy and clarity of meaning. I continue to hope that a reign of peace will soon come to pass.

In this 1970 letter, Truman writes to Benjamin Cohen that his proclamation recognizing Israel’s independence was handled like any other presidential document. In reality, Truman’s recognition of Israel was sent only eleven minutes after receiving the news that Israel had proclaimed independence at midnight on May 14/15, 1948 (in the U.S., May 14, 6 pm, E.S.T.) The hastily typed original, with quick handwritten edits, is preserved in Truman’s Presidential Library. Secretary of State George C. Marshall and many others opposed the creation of a Jewish state. Any mention by Truman of his recognition of Israel is extremely rare.

HARRY S. TRUMAN. Typed Letter Signed, to Benjamin Cohen. Independence, Missouri, March 25, 1970. 1 p., 7¼ x 10½ in., with envelope with printed free frank.

Inventory #21308.01       Price: $12,000

Historical Background

At midnight on May 14/15, 1948 (6 p.m., May 14, in Washington, D.C.), the British Mandate officially ended, and Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel. Truman response was sent only eleven minutes later: “This Government has been informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine, and recognition has been requested by the ^provisional^ Government thereof. The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the new Jewish State. ^State of Israel.^”

The original recognition message, with hastily added corrections, complete with the time, “6:11,” can be seen in the papers of Press Secretary Charles G. Ross at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum.

After World War I, Britain controlled Palestine under a League of Nations mandate. By 1946, Britain was under pressure to withdraw from Palestine because of attacks by Arab militias and armed Zionist groups. A special United Nations committee recommended the immediate partitioning of Palestine into two states, one for Arabs and the other for Jews, with Jerusalem maintained by the U.N. as an international city. The General Assembly approved the proposal and the British announced they would leave Palestine on May 15, 1948.

Jewish Americans lobbied an old Missouri friend and business partner of Truman, Edward Jacobson (1891-1955), to persuade Truman to support the proposal. Clark Clifford, Truman’s domestic policy advisor, also strongly favored recognition, arguing that the Jews deserved a sanctuary after the horror of the Holocaust.

Truman wrote this letter in 1970, hoping for the arrival of a “reign of peace,” in the aftermath of the Six Day War of 1967 and the first acts of Palestinian terrorism against Israel.

Complete Transcript

                        March 25, 1970

Dear Mr. Cohen:

            I was pleased to have your letter of February 20, and to comply with your request for a signed photograph.

            As for your interest in the proclamation of May 14, 1948, any document or statement issued by the President goes through a series of statements to make certain of its accuracy and clarity of meaning.

            I continue to hope that a reign of peace will soon come to pass.

                                                                              Sincerely yours, / Harry S Truman

Mr. Benjamin Cohen / 24, Hamaavak Street

Ramat, Hasharon / Israel

Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) was thirty-third President of the United States. A Missouri native, Truman first won elective office in 1922, winning a judge’s seat on the Jackson County Court. After serving several terms, Truman was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1934, and in 1940 gained national attention for his chairmanship of the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program, which was eventually nicknamed “The Truman Committee.” Truman continued his political rise in 1944, when he was elected Vice-President as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s running mate. After only 82 days in the White House, Truman was thrust into the Presidency when FDR died unexpectedly. His inheritance was a world at war. Germany had surrendered, but Japan refused to give up the war. Truman, in a desperate move to avoid having to invade the Japanese mainland, ordered the deployment of two atomic bombs. They were dropped on August 6 and August 9, 1945. Japan surrendered on August 14, 1945. As President, Truman waged an undeclared war on the Soviet Union, drafting the “Truman Doctrine,” which proclaimed the United States’ willingness to provide aid to countries resisting communism. The Marshall Plan sought to strengthen the European economy in the hopes that this program, too, would prevent the spread of Soviet influence. Elected President for a full term in 1948, he also brought United States troops into the Korean War (1950-1953). In addition to his cold war activities, Truman’s administration expanded the New Deal and promoted Civil Rights initiatives.

Ramat HaSharon, to which Truman sent this letter, is a city north of Tel Aviv on Israel’s central coast.


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