April 28, 2008
National Archives Celebrates 60th Anniversary of the State of Israel
Letter from Eliyahu Epstein and press release from President Truman
The following is a document alert -- part of a program sponsored by the National Archives to notify the media of documents in the holdings of the National Archives that are relevant to national holidays, anniversaries or current events. This program is based on original records from the National Archives, its 12 Presidential libraries and 13 regional facilities, and is designed to offer the media an historical perspective on events that occur periodically and to highlight historical antecedents to current political or diplomatic initiatives.
Washington, DC…Sixty years ago, on May 14, 1948, at midnight, the Provisional Government of Israel proclaimed a new State of Israel. Eliahu Epstein, head of the Jewish Agency's Washington Office, officially informed President Harry S. Truman of this action and requested that the United States recognize the new Jewish State. Epstein’s statement said:
With full knowledge of the deep bond of sympathy which has existed and has been strengthened over the past thirty years between the Government of the United States and the Jewish people of Palestine, I have been authorized by the provisional government of the new state to tender this message and to express the hope that your government will recognize and will welcome Israel into the community of nations.
Just 11 minutes after midnight, President Truman officially recognized Israel:
This Government has been informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine, and recognition has been requested by the provisional Government thereof. The United States recognizes the provision government as the de facto authority of the new State of Israel.
The very next day, the first day of Israeli Independence, Arab armies invaded Israel and the first Arab-Israeli war began.
The creation of a Jewish state in Palestine was one of the most divisive issues of the Truman administration. On November 29, 1947, the United Nations agreed that Palestine, which had been a British mandate since 1922, would be divided into two new states: one Jewish, one Arab. The British would withdraw on May 14, 1948, when this partition plan would take effect.
As the deadline approached, U.S. policy on this question appeared to be in disarray. President Truman secretly assured the Jewish Agency for Palestine of U.S. support for the plan, while the State Department announced support of an alternative plan. As the violence between Jews and Arabs in Palestine escalated and as the British prepared to withdraw, President Truman, subjected to intense pressures, made his choice and issued his press release. The U.S. delegates to the United Nations and top-ranking State Department officials were angered that Truman released his recognition statement to the press without notifying them first.
This document alert is based on Eliahu Epstein’s letter to President Truman announcing the State of Israel, and on President Truman’s press release recognizing that state. Both documents are at the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. The Truman Library is part of the Presidential Libraries system of the National Archives and Records Administration.
See an image of the Eliahu Epstein letter to President Truman (1948).
See an image of the Press Release Announcing U.S. Recognition of Israel (1948).
See a “Teaching with Documents” lesson plan about this document.
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