This week marks the 60th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel. There is a fine article in the Washington Post today by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke on the divisions within the Truman administration over recognition of the Jewish state. As Holbrooke tells it, the issue was the most serious division between President Truman and Secretary of State George Marshall. Truman prevailed, and the United States became the first country to recognise the new state.
Israel was going to come into existence whether or not Washington recognized it. But without American support from the very beginning, Israel's survival would have been at even greater risk. Even if European Jewry had not just emerged from the horrors of World War II, it would have been an unthinkable act of abandonment by the United States. Truman's decision, although opposed by almost the entire foreign policy establishment, was the right one -- and despite complicated consequences that continue to this day, it is a decision all Americans should recognize and admire.
This is well said. In the late 1940s, the US - as is still not widely understood - was militarily enfeebled and might easily have reverted to isolationism. President Truman's decisions in the essential issues of postwar diplomacy were extraordinarily prescient. This one was a straightforward moral case; so is the United States' continuing commitment to Israel's security.
My position on this is not complex. I have no interest in the fortunes of Judaism but a great interest in the resilience of persecuted peoples. There is no people more historically persecuted than the Jews, and a Jewish state is their guarantor. It also represents the intrusion of Western constitutional principles into a region where these are not widely observed. Though there are organised religious extremists in the Israeli political system, they have never attained power - unlike, say, their counterparts in Iran.
I am no uncritical supporter of Israeli government policies. Some - such as the attempt to implement regime change in Lebanon in the 1980s - I have strongly opposed. I hope for, without expecting any time soon, a pacific two-state territorial settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the fact and the independence - not merely, in the demeaning phrase grudgingly advanced by her enemies, the "existence"- of Israel, a Jewish state and a vibrant democracy, are causes for celebration.