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Quirk of history

The friendship that founded a nation

Harry Truman with Edward Jacobson (left). National Archives

The 75-year partnership between America and Israel “stems partly from the friendship between just two men”, says Lexington in The Economist. During the First World War, a young Jewish soldier called Edward Jacobson became pals with his lieutenant, one Harry Truman. The two men launched a haberdashery in Kansas City after the conflict ended, but the business failed and the two went their separate ways. Fast-forward to 1948, and President Truman was pushing back against the idea of creating a Jewish homeland.

That was when Jacobson stepped in. Despite having never asked a favour from his old friend, he flew from Kansas City to Washington, walked into the West Wing and made an “impassioned plea” to Truman. The president “drummed his fingers on his desk”, spun away in his swivel chair, and gazed out at the Rose Garden. Finally, he swivelled back. “You win, you baldheaded son-of-a-bitch,” he said. On 14 May 1948, “America became the first country to recognise the first Jewish state in almost 2,000 years”. Jacobson’s role, Truman later said, had been “decisive”.