The role played by Eddie Jacobson, Kansas City mens clothing retailer, in the 1948 diplomatic recognition of Israel remains cinematic.
By BRIAN BURNES
The Kansas City Star
In the early 1920s, he and his Army pal Harry Truman had presided over the failure of their downtown Kansas City haberdashery.
Fast-forward some 25 years.
Theyve stayed friends. In 1945, as president, Truman visits Jacobson in his Westport menswear shop.
In 1948, Jacobson visits Truman at the White House.
He asks Truman to receive Chaim Weizmann for a formal visit. The Zionist movement leader is eager to see the United States become the first nation to grant diplomatic recognition to Israel, which is preparing to declare its independence on May 14.
Jacobson, a member of The Temple, Congregation Bnai Jehudah, has not been an especially ardent supporter of a Jewish state. But he responds to the requests of American Jewish leaders that he gain Trumans ear.
Truman is resentful that Jacobson brings up the subject.
But Jacobson proves shrewd, noting on Trumans desk a miniature statue of Andrew Jackson, one of Trumans political heroes. Your hero is Jackson, Jacobson says.
Then he says his own hero is Weizmann.
Truman agrees to see Weizmann and, two months later, authorizes de facto recognition of Israel.
Jacobsons intervention lends such momentum to the story that its tempting to conflate Trumans resolve on the issue into that one episode.
But, as made clear in Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict, by John B. Judis, Trumans evolution on the question was complicated. Truman at first opposed the creation of a Jewish state and instead attempted to promote other options, such as a federated Palestine with autonomous Jewish and Arab regions.
Zionist leaders disagreed, and Truman gave up that position.
Judis doubts that a federated Palestine would have been viable anyway.
The only way it could have worked would have been if Truman had been willing to send American troops to Palestine to enforce it, and he was unwilling to do that, he said recently.
By 1947, Judis said, the Cold War was beginning, and Truman was worried he would have to use American troops in Europe and didnt want them bogged down in Palestine.
Judis speaks at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St. For more information, go to KCLibrary.org.