Harry S. Truman: The Man from Independence

By William F. Levantrosser | Go to book overview

to the Republicans, and the other two ( Illinois and California) to the Democrats, 92 though admittedly other factors were far more responsible for this.

The contention, therefore, that President Truman decided his Palestinian policy largely on the basis of domestic politics, fails to stand when subjected to close scrutiny. The domestic side of Truman's recognition policy was only incidental; to the extent that Palestinian policy was a vote-getting device, it was employed by both parties. Far more significant in the matter of recognition was the heritage of sympathy in America for a Jewish homeland and a deteriorating Palestinian situation in 1948; a new element was the growing Soviet-American rivalry and the fear of possible Russian inroads into the Middle East.

The fact is that the Truman Administration, in the tradition of American presidential diplomacy, placed American interests, as they were perceived, first in its developing Palestinian policy. 93 The President's order of priorities were reflected in a speech at Madison Square Garden in New York on October 28, 1948, during the election campaign, when he insisted that it was his wish that U.S. policy on Israel be consistent with American policy generally and that, therefore, he favored a strong, free, and democratic Jewish state in Palestine. 94

This, it would seem, was an accurate assessment of his Palestinian policy. At all times American policy relative to Palestine and the Jews was determined within the context of general American foreign policy considerations. The American support for U.N. attempts to find a Palestinian solution, to cite but one example, was consistent with the broader American policy of support for the U.N. Consequently, in the light of the evidence, it is difficult to see how the President's Palestinian policy can be viewed as a partisan matter.

Nor, since then, has there been any significant change in the U.S. attitude toward Israel. The United States has been the mainstay of Israel, with both private and public aid from America undergirding that state since 1948. Fur- thermore, vital military supplies have been made available to the Israelis when needed. And, this has not been a partisan matter. Every administration since Truman's has materially aided Israel's sovereignty, 95 and opinion polls continue to show, as they have in the past, a strong backing for this policy. 96 The Truman policy, therefore, was clearly in the mainstream of American political thinking.


NOTES
1.
Harry S. Truman, Memoirs, vol. 2 ( New York, 1956), p. 164.
2.
Richard P. Stevens, American Zionism and U.S. Foreign Policy, 1942-1947 ( New York, 1962), p. 206.
3.
This is still essentially the argument of John Snetsinger in Truman, The Jewish Vote and the Creation of Israel ( Stanford, Calif., 1974). Snetsinger argues that Truman had no personal commitment to Zionist goals but supported them when it was politically expedient to do so. For example, on the crucial May 14 meeting on recognition, Snetsinger has interviewed some of the participants and presents evidence that Clifford argued for recognition on substantially political grounds. He also cites numerous examples of party

-49-

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