February 17, 1948

After voting for the United Nation’s resolution recommending the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states the previous November, the Policy Planning Staff of the US State Department prepared a memorandum for Secretary of State George Marshall and President Truman (shown together in the photo) essentially seeking non-implementation of the partition resolution. The fear was that partition would bring about a Jewish state, the Jews would be roundly beaten by Arab armies, the US would be asked to intervene on their behalf, and then the Soviet Union would use this opportunity to place their own fighting forces in the region, creating an unwanted confrontation between the two emerging super-powers. The State Department also wished to avoid incurring Arab world hostility for Washington’s support of a Jewish state.

In addition, the State Department wanted to urge the United Kingdom to continue to exercise its mandate over Palestine in the event of reconsideration by the UN of the Palestine problem. Fourth, “should the UN reconsider the Palestine problem, the US should propose establishing a trusteeship for Palestine, including the provision of an international force during an unspecified transition period [to a federal state]. And the US should immediately urge all Arab states to refrain from any act of aggression.”

Nowhere in the memorandum was there any endorsement for the establishment of a Jewish state. Two days later Secretary of State Marshall, who was angry that Truman had supported the partition vote at the UN in November, told his colleagues at the State Department that Truman had assured him that the US would disregard domestic political factors in making US decisions. By June 1948, the State Department had come around to supporting the idea of the new Jewish state, and Arab state alienation did not, as predicted, “endanger the security of the United States.” And of course, Israel survived the attacks by Arab states and the US did not have to send troops. The complete document is available here: www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/israel/large/documents/index.php?documentdate=1948-02-17&documentid=3-12&collectionid=ROI&pagenumber=1

February 17, 2017