Max Lowenthal: Diary Extract 15 May, 1948

Max Lowenthal was a Washington lawyer and advisor to President Truman. This extract from his diary was obtained from the Max Lowenthal Papers, University Archives, University of Minnesota (Box 8, Folder 62).

This extract is the last entry for May 15, and gives an account of a phone call the previous day from Loy Henderson, State Department, to Eliahu Epstein, Representative in Washington of the Jewish Agency for Palestine. At the time Epstein was putting together  a formal letter from the Provisional Government of Israel to President Truman, requesting recognition of the newly declared State of Israel.

I forgot to say earlier that this a.m Eliahu told me of two phone calls he had yesterday from Loy Henderson. The first at noon, asking whether the Jewish State wanted any territory other than was granted in the UN resolution of Nov. 29. Eliahu said No, and any other territory taken until peace was achieved would be returned to the Arab State, was being taken only to protect the Jews in adjacent parts, where necessary.

At 6.30 p.m. Loy called him, to give his best wishes, to say he hoped they could cooperate, etc. Eliahu wisely said of course, and was most gracious with him.

Lowenthal’s papers include several draft documents that he produced for the Truman Administration in the period running up to the end of the Mandate. A couple of these mentioned that assurances had been received that the Zionist leadership would respect the partition plan borders. The documents are not all dated, and I need to look into them carefully, but it seems that these assurances were given a few days before 14th May.

Epstein gave a simplified account of the phone call from Loy Henderson in a telegram he sent on the evening of May 14 to Shertok, Foreign Minister of the Provisional Government in Tel Aviv: “Loy Henderson phoned to ascertain boundaries of new State. Advised that boundaries in accordance with U.N Resolution.”

The second call was made after 6 p.m Washington time, midnight in Tel Aviv, when Israel’s declaration of independence became effective. Truman’s recognition of Israel, which Henderson had opposed, was timed at 6.11 p.m. This explains the last paragraph, with the two opponents starting to form a new working relationship.

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About David Gerald Fincham

Retired academic scientist.
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