Harry Truman’s concerns about Israel and Palestine were prescient—and forgotten.
As president, Truman initially opposed the creation of a Jewish state. Instead, he tried to promote an Arab-Jewish federation or binational state. He finally gave up in 1947 and endorsed the partition of Palestine into separate states, but he continued to express regret in private that he had not achieved his original objective, which he blamed most often on the “unwarranted interference” of American Zionists. After he had recognized the new state, he pressed the Israeli government to negotiate with the Arabs over borders and refugees; and expressed his disgust with “the manner in which the Jews are handling the refugee problem.”
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|Proposed partition of Israel/Palestine in 1947|
The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR [Area of Operations]. Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.
Resolving the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians would not necessarily calm the turbulent Middle East, but at a time when Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and even Lebanon are in chaos and could become havens for international terrorism, it would remove an important source of unrest and allow the United States to act as an honest broker rather than a partisan in the region.