Fear of losing Jewish votes to the Republicans moved Truman to endorse the idea of a Jewish state in 1946, when he heard Dewey was about to do so; to support the 1947 U.N. partition plan, when his advisers told him failure to do so would cost him “two or three pivotal states” in the 1948 presidential election; and surely influenced his decision in May 1948 to recognize the newborn State of Israel.
With less than six months to go before he faced reelection, how could Truman ignore his top aide’s warning that “the Jewish vote is important in New York…[and] no candidate since 1876 has lost New York and won the presidency”?
Though the controversy over the current Palestinian mufti probably won’t escalate to the point of affecting the 2012 presidential election, all sides would do well to keep in mind what 1948 tells us about the potential electoral impact of Middle East politics.
Dr. Rafael Medoff is director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies. He is also the author of a number of books including the forthcoming “Herbert Hoover and the Jews: The Origins of the ‘Jewish Vote’ and Bipartisan Support for Israel,” co-authored with Professor Sonja Schoepf Wentling.