Israel Independence Day: JFK, Truman, & the Partition Plan

Immediately after the United States voted in the U.N. for the partition of Palestine into two states – Arab and Jewish, the State Department convinced President Truman to halt all military shipments to the Middle East. At the time Britain was arming the Arabs, and no one was arming the Jews…

What of even-handedness?

The very day after Truman reassured Chaim Weizmann – the international face of Zionism – of his commitment to partition, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. announced that the U.S. recommended abandoning the partition plan, and called for U.N. rule in Palestine.

What of commitment? Consistency of policy?

Here we can see the notes from a memorable speech given by a first-term Congressman from Boston on April 4, 1948. The speaker denounced the “unfortunate reversal… of our policy towards Palestine” as “one of the most discouraging aspects of recent American foreign policy.” He reminded his audience that “since the end of the first World War successive Presidents and Congress have ‘reaffirmed’ the solemn promise of the Balfour declaration” and demanded “explanation from the Administration” as to the “sudden reversal of our position in relation to the partition of Palestine.”

The speaker was the young John F. Kennedy, who had traveled as a student to Jerusalem in 1939, and written at length to his (virulently anti-Semitic) father about the historical intractability of the political situation.

I believe that to this day the United States is torn between an attitude of fraternity with Israel – a nation that shares its deepest values, surrounded by so many nations at fundamental odds with the U.S.A. – and an attitude of realpolitik, where loyalty and common ground mean so little…


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