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What They Are Saying
There Was a Pitched Battle in Washington Over Israel's Birth
Former diplomat Richard Holbrooke writes in the Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com) on May 7 about the U.S. decision to recognize the State of Israel in 1948:
"In celebrations surrounding Israel's 60th anniversary, it should not be forgotten that there was an epic struggle in Washington over how to respond to Israel's declaration of independence on May 14, 1948. It led to the most serious disagreement President Harry Truman ever had with his revered secretary of state, George C. Marshall -- and with most of the foreign policy establishment.
"The Jewish Agency proposed partitioning Palestine into two parts -- one Jewish, one Arab. But the State and Defense departments backed the British plan to turn Palestine over to the United Nations. In March, Truman privately promised Chaim Weizmann, the future president of Israel, that he would support partition -- only to learn the next day that the American ambassador to the United Nations had voted for U.N. trusteeship.
"Truman blamed 'third and fourth level' State Department officials -- especially the director of U.N. affairs, Dean Rusk, and the agency's counselor, Charles Bohlen. But opposition really came from an even more formidable group: the 'wise men' who were simultaneously creating the great Truman foreign policy of the late 1940s -- among them Marshall, James V. Forrestal, George F. Kennan, Robert Lovett, John J. McCloy, Paul Nitze and Dean Acheson. To overrule State would mean Truman taking on Marshall, whom he regarded as 'the greatest living American,' a daunting task for a very unpopular president.
"Beneath the surface lay unspoken but real anti-Semitism on the part of some (but not all) policymakers. The position of those opposing recognition was simple -- oil, numbers and history. 'There are 30 million Arabs on one side and about 600,000 Jews on the other,' Defense Secretary Forrestal told [Truman aid Clark] Clifford. 'Why don't you face up to the realities?'
"On May 12, Truman held a meeting to decide the issue. Marshall and his universally respected deputy, Robert Lovett, made the case for delaying recognition -- and 'delay' really meant 'deny.' Marshall then uttered what Clifford would later call 'the most remarkable threat I ever heard anyone make directly to a President.' In an unusual top-secret memorandum Marshall wrote for the historical files after the meeting, the great general recorded his own words: 'I said bluntly that if the President were to follow Mr. Clifford's advice [to support partition] and if in the elections I were to vote, I would vote against the President.'
"After this stunning moment, the meeting adjourned in disarray. In the next two days, Clifford looked for ways to get Marshall to accept recognition. Lovett, although still opposed to recognition, finally talked a reluctant Marshall into remaining silent if Truman acted.
"With only a few hours left until midnight in Tel Aviv, Clifford told the Jewish Agency to request immediate recognition of the new state, which still lacked a name. Truman announced recognition at 6:11 p.m. on May 14 -- 11 minutes after Ben-Gurion's declaration of independence in Tel Aviv. So rapidly was this done that in the official announcement, the typed words 'Jewish State' are crossed out, replaced in Clifford's handwriting with 'State of Israel.' Thus the United States became the first nation to recognize Israel, as Truman and Clifford wanted. The secret of the Oval Office confrontation held for years, and a crisis in both domestic politics and foreign policy was narrowly averted.
"To this day, many think that Marshall and Lovett were right on the merits, and that domestic politics was the real reason for Truman's decision. Israel, they argue, has been nothing but trouble for the United States.
"I think this misses the point. 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 was the right one -- and despite complicated consequences that continue to this day, it is a decision all Americans should recognize and admire."
Will Bush Try to Save a Palestinian Who Fought Against Terror?
Columnist Jeff Jacoby writes in The Boston Globe (www. boston.com/bostonglobe) on May 7 about the plight of a Palestinian who fought terror:
"Ida Nudel, 77, is a famous former refusenik who battled the Soviet Union for 16 years for the right to immigrate to Israel, which Moscow finally granted in 1987. Imad Sa'ad, 25, is a Palestinian policeman who was sentenced to death by a Palestinian Authority court in Hebron last week. His crime: alerting Israeli authorities to the whereabouts of four Palestinian terrorists, who were subsequently killed by Israeli forces.
"In assisting Israeli counterterrorism, Sa'ad may have saved scores of innocent lives. For doing so, he was charged with 'collaboration,' and will face a firing squad unless international pressure forces Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, to commute his sentence. Or unless Israel, as Nudel urges in a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, 'launch[es] a rescue operation to extract the prisoner from his cell.'
"Hundreds of Palestinian dissidents have been murdered through the years as 'collaborators.' During the intifada of the late 1980s, so many Palestinians were butchered by fellow Palestinians that the internecine violence was called the 'intrafada.'
"The coming of the Oslo and the creation of the Palestinian Authority were supposed to bring an end to terrorism against Israel. They led to the opposite. Under [Yasser] Arafat, Palestinian life grew corrupt, brutal and anarchic. Terror attacks on Israelis soared. Few Palestinians defied the terrorists; the consequences of doing so could be fatal. 'Scores of alleged "collaborators" were unlawfully killed by armed groups or individuals,' Amnesty International reported in 2003.
"But didn't all this come to an end with Arafat's death in 2004? Haven't we been assured of the peaceful aspirations of the P.A. today, or at least that part of it presided over by Abbas and his Fatah government in the West Bank? President Bush routinely hails Abbas's pacific goals.
"It is on the strength of this conviction that the United States, Israel and the international community have lavished the P.A. with money, weapons, security training and diplomatic support. But then why is Sa'ad on death row?
"Like Arafat before him, Abbas has committed the P.A. to ending violence and halting all official incitement against Israel. Yet, like Arafat, he refuses to do so. In the language of the Road Map, Palestinian officials are required to 'disrupt and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere.' That is just what Sa'ad did. In a rational society, he'd be commended. In the poisoned world of the P.A., far gone in nihilism, death-worship and Islamist fanaticism, he is to die.
"When Bush returns to the Middle East next week, saving Imad Sa'ad should be his highest priority. The misnamed, misbegotten 'peace process' can wait."