Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress earlier this week illustrates the special relationship that the United States has maintained with Israel. As is to be expected in any relationship lasting 66 years and counting, the United States and Israel have had their fair share of disagreements. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud Party recently released video comparing the controversy surrounding Netanyahu’s speech to the objections raised by the United States Department of State to the recognition of the state of Israel in 1948 does not reflect the full extent of General Marshall’s considerations.
As Secretary of State George C. Marshall agreed with the state department’s position for several reasons. First, the recognition of Israel undermined the proposal for a United Nations trusteeship, which the United States had publicly supported. Marshall was also very concerned about the likelihood of war. He knew that Israel did not have the manpower or weapons to wage a successful war, and that the demobilization of the United States military following World War II made the US incapable of providing Israel immediate support. Finally, Marshall believed that President Truman’s decision to recognize Israel had been influenced by domestic political considerations, which Marshall felt had no place in deciding questions of foreign policy. An in-depth examination of Marshall’s opposition to the recognition of Israel can be found in the article “Marshall, the Recognition of Israel, and Anti-Semitism” by Dr. Gerald M. Pops, Emeritus Professor of Public Administration at West Virginia University.
In a conversation with members of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States Marshall further explained his position. “As Secretary of State it was my duty to approach the problem of Palestine on a realistic basis, as free as possible from the emotionalism which surrounds the issue. My duty, I pointed out, was to seek calmly a wise long-range solution which would adequately serve the interests of the United States.” He concluded by offering an optimistic, yet realistic assessment of the situation saying that the, “present situation in Palestine gave more promise of a satisfactory solution than at any time since the problem had arisen, and that the prospect[s] for such a solution were good.” Marshall’s warning, “that an effective solution would probably please neither the Arab nor Israel governments,” reveals the depth of his understanding of the conflict and remains relevant today as disagreements between Israel and Arab nations remain unresolved.
To learn more about George C. Marshall’s involvement in the United States’ decision to recognize the state of Israel as well as view photographs of Marshall with prominent Jewish leaders please visit the research library’s Recognition of Israel subject guide.