President Chaim Weizmann of Israel to President Truman1

Dear Mr. President: I am very happy that Mr. Ewing’s2 visit to Israel gives me an opportunity to send you a personal letter. We spent a very pleasant hour together and although his visit to this country is of short duration, I am sure he will be able to convey to you a picture of the situation as it is and of the problems which are uppermost in our minds.

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I cannot begin this letter without expressing to you our deep gratitude for the lead taken by the United States delegation at the recent session of the U.N. Assembly in opposing the disastrous resolution adopted by the Assembly on the internationalization of Jerusalem.3 The view expressed by the spokesman of the United States that the resolution is both “irresponsible and impractical” will, I feel sure, be shared by all when calmer counsels come to prevail. This will provide an opportunity for reconsidering the whole question on more constructive lines and may possibly open the way for a solution acceptable to all parties. We are anxious to work with the Government of the United States towards that inevitable turning point.

Anyone familiar with international affairs knows that international régimes of this kind have invariably proved unworkable and produced nothing but insecurity, friction and economic decay. In the case of Jerusalem, landlock city wedged in between Israel and Transjordan, with no economic life of its own and no direct contact with the outside world, all these disastrous effects would be multiplied ten-fold.

The only significant concern which the world at large has in Jerusalem is the protection of its holy shrines and the provision of free and secure access to all who wish to visit them. In actual fact, the area containing these holy shrines represents not more than two percent of the whole of Jerusalem, and the bulk of this sacred area is not in our possession, but in that of King Abdallah.4 Is it then not the height of absurdity and injustice to force an artificial and unwanted international regime upon the whole of modern Jerusalem—with its hundred thousand Jews, its Hebrew University, and all its other great Jewish institutions—merely because these holy shrines and places are situated in a small area of the city which is not in Jewish possession? We are all in favor of providing special safeguards for the protection of these holy shrines and we are willing to give adequate guarantees for their free accessibility. But we cannot agree, and we cannot be expected to agree, that our ancient Mother-city be severed from the new commonwealth of Israel. Jerusalem has been our capital since the days of David and Solomon. It was the center of our ancient glory, as the Psalmist described it, “beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, the city of the Great King.” Jerusalem was the tribune from which the Prophets of Israel sent forth their eternal messages to mankind: “Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” When Jerusalem was destroyed, [Page 660] our exiled fathers by the waters of Babylon took the awesome oath:—“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning.” Throughout the long ages of our exile, Jerusalem was the lodestar of our hopes. To countless generations of Jews, ascent to Jerusalem and residence within its precincts was the highest that life could offer. During the eighteen centuries this attachment and aspiration formed the central theme in our life and literature. And now that our national hopes have been realized and we have again become a free nation in our ancient land, is it conceivable that Jerusalem, the home and heart of our people, be detached from the State of Israel? It was an Archbishop of Canterbury who, a few years ago, commented on the absurdity of “realizing Zionism without restoring Zion” to the Jewish people.

To all this has now been added the tragic experience of last year. How can any right-thinking man demand that the Jews of Jerusalem, who last year went through hunger, thirst, and deadly peril in defense of their city, should now be placed under alien rule? It was not the thirty-nine nations who recently voted to turn Jerusalem into an international regime, but the soldiers and engineers of Israel, who last year saved Jerusalem from utter destruction. No wonder that the Jews of Jerusalem are determined to remain part of Israel, as they always have been.

We are most anxious to uphold the authority of the United Nations and we shall be glad to cooperate in any solution which safeguards Christian and Moslem religious interests without depriving us of our Mother-city. Such a solution can be worked out on the common sense principle that the holy places be placed under supervision of the United Nations, while the city is governed in accordance with the wishes of the people who live in it. That was the spirit and the intent of the proposals we submitted to the General Assembly of the United Nations, by which we still stand. I hope that the United States will wield its unrivalled influence in the United Nations for helping towards such a solution.

In my conversation with Mr. Ewing, I referred to another matter which is causing us great anxiety: the large-scale rearmament that is going on in the neighboring Arab States with the help of Great Britain. Mr. Ewing will be able to convey to you some of the facts and the dangers which are inherent in these warlike preparations. It is essential that effective steps be taken to put an end to this one-sided rearmament. We are desperately anxious for the peace of the Middle East and the peace of the world. We want to rebuild our ancient country and provide homes and security to the many thousands whom we are bringing over from Europe. We are trying to live up to the hopes which you placed in us when you gave us your generous support [Page 661] during these trying years, but to fulfil that task we need peace. I pray that you may do what you can to help preserve it.5

With kindest regards, and all the good wishes for a happy New Year.

Yours very sincerely,

Chaim Weizmann
  1. Referred to the Department of State on January 25 “for appropriate handling” by William D. Hassett, Secretary to President Truman.
  2. Oscar E. Ewing, Administrator of the Federal Security Agency.
  3. Resolution 303 (IV) of December 9, 1949, restated the General Assembly’s intention that Jerusalem be placed under a permanent international régime; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. vi, p. 1530.
  4. Usually rendered as Abdullah, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of the Jordan.
  5. Stuart W. Rockwell of the Office of African and Near Eastern Affairs telephoned Mr. Hassett on January 27 concerning President Weizmann’s communication. The latter informed him that “the President did not wish to answer this letter himself and that as far as the White House was concerned, the Department could file the letter if it thought it desirable to do so. He also stated that he thought it very inappropriate of Mr. Ewing to have brought the letter to the President and that he (Mr. Hassett) had so informed the President, who agreed. Mr. Ewing also brought another letter from Dr. Weizmann to the National Security Resources Board asking that steps be taken to prevent the British shipment of arms to the Arab states.” (Memorandum by Mr. Rockwell, 784.02/1–350) Mr. Rockwell subsequently added a marginal notation on his memorandum, in which he stated that after consultation on January 29 with Raymond A. Hare, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian and African Affairs, it was decided to file the letter.