In This Review

A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel
A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel
By Ronald Radosh and Allis Radosh
428 pp, HarperCollins, 2009

This detailed account of Harry Truman's role in the partition of Palestine and the establishment of the state of Israel offers a useful and clear account of a complex chain of events. Although the authors are sympathetic to both the Zionist cause and Truman, they still cite instances of "Jewish terrorism" in Palestine and can be candid about Truman's lack of preparation and sometimes erratic temperament. While documenting the extraordinary pressure that Jewish groups put on the administration and Congress, the book portrays the mix of motives that shaped Truman's shifting policy toward the developing crisis. A strong personal sympathy for the Jewish cause, an outrage at the plight of Jewish refugees post-Holocaust, a realization that the public would resist any new mass immigration to the United States from Europe, a belief that the State Department was overstating the dangers of a pro-Jewish policy in the Middle East, and a feeling that the United Kingdom ought to fulfill its earlier commitments under the Balfour Declaration all seem to have gone into Truman's thinking. His political calculations on the issue seem to have been aimed less at producing gains than at avoiding losses. Any sign of wavering in his support for a Jewish state brought threats from both the left and the right. If his policy was an attempt to win Jewish votes, it failed; Truman squeaked through in the 1948 election without the weighty electoral votes of New York and Pennsylvania. Regardless, he remained enormously proud of his support for Israel for the rest of his life; A Safe Haven helps readers understand why.