Envoy to the Promised Land

Envoy to the Promised Land

The Diaries and Papers of James G. McDonald, 1948–1951
James G McDonald, edited by Richard Breitman, Barbara McDonald Stewart, Severin Hochberg, James G McDonald and Norman J. W. Goda
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 05/22/2017
Format: Hardback 12 b&w illus., 4 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-02534-0
Bookmark and Share
Buy from Amazon


Just before Israel emerged as a state in May 1948, key United States officials hesitated and backtracked. Undersecretary of State Robert Lovett told Moshe Sharett of the Jewish Agency for Palestine that the US had expected a peaceful transition to dual states in Palestine. Now, war between Jews and Arabs and a broader regional conflict loomed. Apart from the Cold War repercussions, another mass slaughter of Jews would roil the US in a presidential election year.

James G. McDonald arrived in Israel soon after its birth, serving as US special representative and later as its first ambassador. McDonald continued his longstanding practice of dictating a diary, which remained for many decades in private hands. Here his letters, private papers, and exchanges with the US State Department and the White House are interspersed chronologically with his diary entries. Envoy to the Promised Land is a major new source for the history of US-Israeli relations.

Brilliantly describing the tense climate in Israel almost day by day, McDonald offers an in-depth portrait of key Israeli politicians and analyzes the early stages of issues that still haunt the country today: the disputed boundaries of the new state, the status of Jerusalem, questions of peace with Arab states and Israel's security, Israel's relationship with the United Nations, and the problem of Palestinian refugees.

These papers and diaries from 1948 to 1951 follow the widely praised Advocate for the Doomed (IUP), Refugees and Rescue (IUP), and To the Gates of Jerusalem (IUP). Together these four volumes significantly revise the ways we view the Holocaust, its aftermath, and the early history of Israel.

Author Bio

Norman J. W. Goda is the Norman and Irma Braman Professor of Holocaust Studies at the University of Florida and author of Tomorrow the World: Hitler, Northwest Africa, and the Path toward America; Tales from Spandau: Nazi Criminals and the Cold War; and The Holocaust: Europe, the World, and the Jews, 1918–1945. He is author (with Richard Breitman) of Hitler's Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, U.S. Intelligence, and the Cold War and (with Richard Breitman, Timothy Naftali, and Robert Wolfe) of U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis.

Richard Breitman is Distinguished Professor of History at American University and author, most recently, of FDR and the Jews (with Allan J. Lichtman). His other books include The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and the Final Solution and Official Secrets: What the Nazis Planned, What the British and Americans Knew. He is editor of the journal Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

Barbara McDonald Stewart, daughter of James G. McDonald, has taught at George Mason University and is author of United States Government Policy on Refugees from Nazism, 1933–1940.

Severin Hochberg is a historian at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He lives in Washington, D.C.


“From the first US ambassador, a long-awaited revelatory  and virtually day-to-day account of modern Israel’s birth in the midst of storm, blood, and fire. James G. McDonald was an American patriot who took part in the great drama prompted by the intensification of the plight of European Jewish refugees.  A witness and participant who was wise and perceptive, a lover of mankind, a lover of the Jewish people, and a lover of Israel, he had walked alongside those who survived the Holocaust and had limped beaten and weary, downtrodden and ravaged, into displaced persons camps after World War II.  Here he chronicles their initial return to their historical homeland, their assembly within it, and their fight for it.  McDonald sought to convince Washington to ensure Israel’s fortification and to support its development as the strategic stronghold of the democratic world in the Middle East. It is difficult not to feel awed by what this generous diary reveals on major policy issues, with unique perspectives on Truman, Bevin, Stalin, Pope Pius XII, Ben-Gurion, and many others in the opening phase of the Cold War in the Middle East. It also provides hundreds of observations of everyday life amidst mass Aliyah, economic development, religious controversy, and much much more. This volume is a celebration for everyone who wishes to know the intimate context of today's Middle East and is as compelling and relevant as tomorrow's newspapers.”
 — Tuvia Friling, former Chief Archivist of the State of Israel

“McDonald probably did more than any American in history to establish the enduring close ties between the Israel and the United States, and he did so against unremitting opposition from powerful forces in the U.S. government.  His diary is a treasure trove of vignettes and observations which bring vividly to life an exciting and perilous time in the history of both countries.  Historians will be poring through it for years to come, but so should policymakers, since many of the issues McDonald dealt with are still alive today.   Those who are simply interested in Israel, and in America’s role in that nation’s founding, will find these pages an endless source of fascination and delight.”
 — Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of The World America Made

“As with previous volumes, the scholarship underpinning these edited diaries is solid and meticulous. . . . Although there are no game-changing revelations in this hefty volume, scholars will find in its pages new detail, depth, and nuance, enhancing their understanding of American and Israeli diplomatic manoeuvering during this formative period.

 — Middle East Journal

“[T]his fascinating volume provides a wealth of information and insights about the forging of the American-Israeli "special relationship" and the foreign-policy deliberations inside the Truman administration about the Middle East. ”
 — Commentary

“This volume is a celebration for the historian, the sociologist, the researcher of political science, and everyone else who wishes to know the intimate context of today's Middle East and is as compelling and relevant as tomorrow's newspapers.

 — Israel Book Review

“The editors have done an outstanding job in sifting through the diaries and countless documents that McDonald preserved regarding his public service.”
 — Middle East Quarterly

    "The two volumes reviewed here, To the Gates of Jerusalem and Envoy to the Promised Land, record McDonald's relationship with Truman and his work promoting the Zionist cause. The editors have done an outstanding job in sifting through the diaries and countless documents that McDonald preserved regarding his public service."”
     — Middle East Forum

    Customer Reviews

    There are currently no reviews
    Write a review on this title.

    Table of Contents

    1. June – July 1948
    2. August 1948
    3. September 1948
    4. October 1948
    5. November 1948
    6. December 1948
    7. January 1949
    8. February 1949
    9. March 1949
    10. April 1949
    11. May 1949
    12. June 1949
    13. July 1949
    14. August 1949
    15. September 1949
    16. October 1949
    17. November 1949
    18. December 1949
    19. January 1950
    20. February 1950
    21. March 1950
    22. April 1950
    23. May 1950
    24. June 1950
    25. July 1950
    26. August 1950
    27. September – December 1950

    Related Titles