Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Presidential Decision Making: Truman's Recognition of Israel
John Kerr
US History
Recognition Of Israel

Grade Levels:
8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

Students will examine documents from opposite sides from advisors close to Truman on the issue of the Recognition of Israel


Give students a different perspective on Presidential decision making.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

National History Standards, Historical Thinking Standard 3:  Compare and Contrast Differing Ideas.


National History Standards, Historical Thinking Standard 3:  Consider Multiple Perspectives.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

“Truman,” by David McCollough, pages 614-617, which summarizes the May 12, 1948 White House meeting, based largely on an interview the author did with Clark Clifford.


“Foreign Relations, 1948,” vol. 5, pt. 2, page 975.  This also contains Marshall self-written  statement concerning the May 12 meeting.

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

Interview with Clark Clifford (April 13, 1971), Truman Library, Oral Histories, 95-106.  https://www.trumanlibrary.org/oralhist/cliford2.htm#95/


George Marshall’s description of the May 12, 1948 meeting, available at



Excerpt of Clifford’s memoirs, discussing the May 12, 1948 meeting, and including Marshall’s self-written summarization for the record, available on the Jewish Center for Public Policy website at


Full description of activity or assignment.

The teacher will briefly explain the post-war controversy involving Palestine and the movement to create a homeland for the Jews, emphasizing the recent plight of European Jews and the almost universal Arab Muslim opposition.


The teacher will then point out that Truman had to decide what the position of the United States would be on this issue, and in so doing, sought advice from members of his administration.  Discussion will then focus on a May 12, 1948 meeting at the White House involving—most importantly—Secretary of State George C. Marshall, White House Counsel Clark Clifford and Truman.


Students will be provided with a transcript of an interview with Clifford—conducted more than two decades later—in which he makes it clear that he and Marshall were on opposite side of the issue.


The teacher will point out that Marshall’s remembrance of the meeting might have been different, and will pass out a document from the Marshall Foundation which summarizes Marshall’s account of the meeting. 


The teacher will then hand out a summarization of the meeting written by Clifford several decades later as part of his memoirs.  This is available on the Jewish Center for Public Policy website.  Clifford makes a point of saying that Marshall felt so strongly about this issue that he went to great lengths to make sure that the official record of the meeting contained exactly what he had said.  (The Marshall statement is also available in “Foreign Relations, 1948,” vol. 5, pt. 2, page 975.)


The teacher will then wrap up the discussion by pointing out that Truman had a difficult decision to make, and it was likely made more difficult by the fact that two of his most trusted advisors were arguing opposite solutions to the problem and for different reasons.

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:

This will not be assessed directly, but instead within the confines of the unit examination.


Lesson could be extended by using Document analysis sheets on the chosen documents.