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Opinion
Daniel Gordis

Israel's First 70 Years Have Surprised the World

Some challenges remain or have returned, like military threats in the region and tension with American Jews.
Israel's founders knew it would struggle. They couldn't have known how well it would also flourish.

Israel's founders knew it would struggle. They couldn't have known how well it would also flourish.

Photographer: Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images

In November 1947, one day prior to the expected United Nations vote on partitioning Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, the CIA urged President Harry Truman not to throw his weight behind the idea. America would have to defend the new Jewish state when it faltered, the CIA’s secret memorandum warned, adding that “the Jews will be able to hold out no longer than two years.”

Several months later, David Ben-Gurion was about to declare the establishment of the State of Israel. Seated among the dozen or so men who would determine the fate of the state-to-be, he famously turned to one of his top military commanders, Yigael Yadin, and asked him if he thought a new Jewish state would survive the military onslaught that the Arabs would inevitably launch. Yadin, who would later serve as chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, replied that he thought the Jewish state would have a 50-50 chance.