FDR and Israel: The Meaning of a Last Letter

The Memoirs by Harry S. Truman (Years of Trial and Hope) are revealing as to the future State of Israel. According to Truman, his first official contact with the issue of Palestine (Israel) took place shortly after he became President on the death of FDR, by Secretary of State Stettinius who “briefed” him. Truman was advised that “although President Roosevelt at times gave expression to views sympathetic to certain Zionist aims, he also gave certain assurances to the Arabs which they regard as definite commitments… there would be no decision altering the basic situation in Palestine without full consultation with both Arabs and Jews.” Truman was further advised, “In his meeting with King Ibn Saud early in 1945, Mr. Roosevelt promised the King that as regards Palestine, he would make no move hostile to the Arab people and would not assist the Jews against the Arabs.” On April 5, 1945, five days before he died, FDR “signed a letter to Ibn Saud repeating the assurances which he had previously made to the King.”

Author Jim Bishop (FDR’S Last Year) provides a fascinating interpretation of FDR’s letter. FDR, who considered himself a strong supporter of the establishment of a Jewish homeland, was a very sick man in his last year of life. He suffered from heart disease, which depleted his physical and mental facilities. He was unable to stand up to strong advocates. When FDR met with King Saud in early 1945, he had hopes of “arranging for a Palestine homeland for the Jews.” The further Roosevelt pursued the subject, the worse he fared, as Ibn Saud had arrived prepared for the argument, stating, “Arabs preferred to die rather than live in proximity with Jews.” “At this point, Roosevelt “seemed to weaken badly, reversed himself, and promised that the U.S. would do nothing to assist the Jews against the Arabs.” Stettinius said of Roosevelt’s April 5, 1945 letter that he was disorientated and was “simply trying to prevent bloodshed between Arabs and Jews.”

Despite strong opposition, Truman followed through with his long-held belief in the establishment and recognition of a Jewish homeland

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