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1948—Who Recognized Israel First?

December 1, 2010

by: Rev. Cheryl Hauer, International Development Director

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Proclamation of Independence

David Ben Gurion, May 14, 1948, Independence Hall

A youth movement marching in Jerusalem on the morning of November 30, 1947 after the United Nation’s decision to establish a Jewish state. (www.israelimages.com)


Some would look at the modern state and declare that it is not, in fact, the Israel mentioned in Scripture. That Israel, they maintain, was intended to be a theocracy founded by God Himself. However, even a cursory reading of the Hebrew Scriptures makes it clear that God acted through governments, people groups, and the affairs of men to bring about His purposes for Israel then, just as He is doing today. The players have changed; the Hittities, Jebusites, Amorites, Assyrians and Romans have been replaced by Hamas, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, Iran, and other modern enemies. But God’s method remains the same.

Even though Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state has recently captured the attention of the world media, it is a controversy with very old roots. Ancient Israel’s relationships with her neighbors and other countries in the known world were critical, then as now, to her existence. And just like today, many of those neighbors refused to acknowledge Israel as a sovereign nation or recognize her right to exist.

In the modern world, official recognition from other governments is crucial in positioning a state as part of the international community, subjecting countries to international law, and making it possible for them to enter into treaties, financial and trade agreements, etc. There are two types of official recognition today, one associated with the term de facto which simply indicates that a nation does, in fact, exist. De jure recognition, however, is the term for full legal recognition of a state as a sovereign government with full rights and responsibilities within the international community.

It is commonly accepted that the United States was the first nation to recognize Israel upon statehood in 1948. In fact, President Harry Truman responded to Israel’s declaration within minutes. However, what he proffered was de facto recognition; America did not grant de jure recognition to Israel until the following year. It is, rather, the Soviet Union that has the distinction of being the first country to grant de jure recognition to Israel, just two days after the declaration of statehood. Interestingly, the first Muslim majority state to grant de jure recognition to Israel was Iran. Since then, that recognition has been withdrawn. Iran now stands as one of Israel’s most out-spoken enemies, and, Israel‘s relationship with Russia is tenuous at best.

In Ezekiel 38, the prophet speaks of a time when Israel will be attacked by two of her greatest enemies, Gog of the land of Magog (thought by most scholars to be Russia) and Persia (modern-day Iran). How amazing that the Lord would use those same two countries—that will eventually unite in an attempt to destroy her—to help establish the modern state of Israel! This time, He will use them to sanctify His name through His defense of His people, so that finally, all the nations of the earth will recognize Israel, not so much as a sovereign state, but as the chosen possession of the sovereign God.

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