Harry Truman is my favorite president. I think it’s because Truman was such a regular guy. After a music critic panned his daughter’s singing performance, Truman, as a father, though during his presidency, responded with a harsh letter attacking the author. Not long after leaving office, Truman and his wife Bess took a cross-country road trip without security. To be fair, I probably studied Truman more than any other President as I read David McCullough’s Truman (the longest book I have ever read) in college. So when I had the opportunity to review Allis Radosh and Ronald Radosh’s A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel, I jumped at the chance.
My recollection of Truman and the establishment of Israel was that heartfelt lobbying by Truman’s close friend Eddie Jacobson convinced the president to recognize Israel. Well, Radosh and Radosh demonstrate that there was certainly more that went into Truman’s decision. The authors illustrate a thorough history of America’s Israel policy starting with the end of Roosevelt’s presidency. A Safe Haven also does a nice job of balancing the role of both American and non-American influences. Specifically, there were intense lobbying efforts for helping the Holocaust refugees and later supporting a partition plan by a variety of elected officials and Jewish agencies as well as strong opposition by the State Department. Additionally, the book shows the American-British relationship through several panels and commissions and the importance of the United Nations in its infancy. To this point, I found the lobbying and negotiations surrounding the UN’s partition vote fascinating.
Overall, while there are portions of the book that seem to drag based on the slowness of the political process and the extremely detailed sources included by Radosh and Radosh, if you’re a fan of Truman and/or curious as to how Israel was created, you’ll enjoy A Safe Haven.