Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
The history of Truman's role in the birth of Israel has produced so many publications that it has almost become a separate genre. The quality of these histories varies greatly, and the truly good ones are few and far between. Given the competition, it is all the more impressive that John B. Judis has written one of the best Israel-and-Truman accounts to date. The strength of Genesis is that it does not restrict itself to a short timeline, but follows multiple actors over a relatively long span of time: the Zionist movement in Britain and the US and the British and US governments, as well as the Zionist movement in Palestine and eventually the Israeli government. Judis shows how some strands of Zionism failed, whilst others grew in importance, succeeding finally at swaying US Palestine policy against the advice of the State Department. Truman's recognition of Israel eleven minutes after the state had been declared was largely the result of intense lobbying against a political vulnerable president rather than a well thought-out foreign policy move. Judis concludes that this has been the trend in the US ever since – policies towards Israel have been driven as much by domestic politics as by foreign policy considerations. This is a long academic debate, and while Judis probably will not have the last say, his account of the Zionist movement, Truman and the establishment of Israel is likely to stand as a seminal work. It is excellently written, well argued and based on a sizeable amount of primary archival research.