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What Happened the First Time an Israeli Leader Met With a U.S. President

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When Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the White House on Monday, it will mark the latest in a long line of similar meetings: since the country was founded in 1948, there have been more than 100 visits to the U.S. by its prime ministers and presidents.

The first took place just days after Israel was established in May 1948. After being elected president May 14 of that year, the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann—who had been in New York City when the news came—traveled to Washington to meet President Harry Truman in Washington. Not everyone, however, was happy about the situation, as TIME reported:

Dr. Chaim Weizmann, 73-year-old Jewish leader who was elected President of the Provisional Government of Israel, made his first state visit this week to the President of the U.S. Blair House, official guest house for visiting foreign dignitaries, hung out the blue and white flag of the world’s newest nation. For Zionists it was another moment for rejoicing.

But from one Jewish group came a reminder and a word of warning. The small, anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism, headed by Lessing J. Rosenwald, art collector and philanthropist, pointed out: “The State of Israel is not the state or homeland of ‘the Jewish People.’ To Americans of Jewish faith it is a foreign state. Our single and exclusive national identity is to the United States. American citizens have no right to participate in the political life of the State of Israel except through the proper agencies and procedures of the [U.S.] Government.”

In other words, American Jews are in the same position as Irish-Americans, German-Americans, etc. The country of their allegiance is the U.S.—and no other.

The dispute over the role of Israel in the lives of American Jews—a debate that has yet to be resolved—didn’t put a damper on the celebratory visit. Weizmann had what TIME reported was a 25-minute chat with President Truman, during which the new head of state “presented [Truman] with a Torah covered in blue velvet,” TIME noted. “Confided Harry Truman: ‘I always wanted one.'”

Read more about Chaim Weizmann, here in the TIME Vault: A Long Road

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Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com