The Palestine and Israel. The overall picture
The first two sections have outlines what Truman’s administration objectives were and what the immediate outcomes were.
This section will argue to what extent the Truman administration can be held accountable for the failure of peace between Palestine and Israel. The overall picture shows that it was a failure because the conflict is an ongoing process. Before we analyse that section, it is important to point out some successes. For example, one success from Truman’s decision to support creation of Israel was the creation of a democratic and legitimate state of Israel.
This meant that Israeli citizens were no longer surrounded by anti-Semitic experiences and Israelis gained their Jewish homeland after many years of humanitarian struggles. This is a success for one side of the dispute. For example, on the plus side Israel controlled more than 73% of Palestine whilst the War of 1948 (War of Independence), led to 650,000 Arab refugees, (Beinin & Hajjar, 2014). Ottolenghi (2004), argued ‘the immigration of the Jewish displaced persons (DP), was one major issue for the Yishuv leadership as was defence in the face of the surrounding Arab threat, but all these issues were considered within the ideological context of the demand for a Jewish state, (Ottolenghi, 2004).’ This shows that Truman’s decision to support Israel was one step closer to giving Jews what they wanted. The issue of DP’s and the humanitarian concern was all emphasised for Jews to acquire a Jewish homeland. It was a ‘Post-war opportunity to attain a Jewish state, (Ottolenghi, 2004)’. This analysis of Truman’s decision to support creation of Israel is vital because it shows the lack of leadership from Truman in attaining a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
The United States saw this as a humanitarian issue whereas the Yishuv viewed it as a necessary step towards the creation of Israel, (Ottolenghi, 2004). This is important to note because it highlights that Truman was too much focused on gaining his support from the Jews in the US and the humanitarian suffering from the Jews. As Ben-Gurion stated, ‘the Zionist role is not to rescue the survivors of Europe, but to rescue Eretz Israel, ‘The land of Israel’, for the Jewish people, (Ottolenghi, 2004).’ Ottolenghi (2004) argued that the survivors were seen as a useful tool to obtain immediate immigration rights by capitalising on international sympathy and edging closer to statehood, (Ottolenghi, 2004)’. It could be argued that Truman was too pre-occupied with the electoral considerations. Truman’s electoral concerns meant that US foreign policy was based on national rather than partisan interests. The Zionist process to gain American support demonstrates ‘the vital need of a foreign policy based on national rather than partisan interests, (Roosevelt, 1948).
‘ Roosevelt (1948), argued that ‘only when the national interests of the united states, in their highest terms, takes precedence over all other considerations, can a logical, far-seeing foreign policy be evolved, (Roosevelt, 1948).’ This biased approach ultimately jeopardised US position and interest in the Middle East for decades to come. However, it can be argue that most US presidents focus on the upcoming elections and their party support, therefore Truman’s electoral concerns cannot be wholly blamed for the conflict. The desire to resolve tensions and maintain US superpower status by the Truman administration was also a failure. ‘The recognition of Israel was a key moment in the rhetoric of a special relationship between Israel and the United States, (Ottolenghi, 2004).
‘ However, this critical moment led to more tensions than a feasible resolution to conflict. Resolving the tensions was and is one main objective, but this objective was conditional within the context of securing oil, security of Israel and making sure that the middle east was not dominated by a hostile power. Sicherman (2011), argued that these three objectives were constant throughout 1948 and it highlights a pattern of US presidentialism, (Sicherman, 2011). This is important to note because although the Truman administration aimed at ensuring lasting peace in the region, the administration wanted the region to be peaceful so that they can maintain superpower status over Middle East. Leighton (2008), argued that the persistence of a Cold War paradigm has contributed to a policy that is often ineffective at best and counter-productive at worst, (Leighton, 2008).
However, Truman cannot be held fully responsible for the conflict because Cold War concerns were at the height. Ottolenghi, (2004) argues that ‘further indications from the US delegation at the UN that the USSR was intent on recognizing Israel emphasized the risk of losing ground to the soviets, (Ottolenghi, 2004). The recognition of Israel led to many casualties on both sides. ‘Israel lost 6,373 of its people, whilst the exact number of Arab losses is unknown but is estimated at between 8,000 and 15,000, (Saylor Academy, 1948, p. 26).
‘ There was large scale fighting, for example, the most famous atrocity occurred at Dayr Yasin, a village near Jerusalem, where the number of Arab residents killed in cold blood by right-wing Zionist militias was about 125, (Beinin & Hajjar, 2014).’ In the Post-1967 War, violence continued and the tensions between Israel and Palestine became the centre of international politics. For example, ‘The Palestinians used terrorism to internationalize the conflict, hijacking and destroying airplanes, holding diplomats hostage, and even attacking Israelis at the 1972 Munich Olympics, (Brookings Institution , 2017).
Nevertheless, Truman cannot be held fully accountable to this because in the 1940s he did seek alternatives and attempted to weigh up the different pressures. Although the bi-national state solution did not work, which was aimed at creating one state solution, it nevertheless, shows that Truman was willing to appease both sides and find a workable solution. However, the fact that it was never implemented means that we cannot access whether it would have been a better policy decision. The circumstances on which Truman was faced with meant that he also had a lack of alternatives.