Einstein was a prominent supporter of both Labor Zionism and efforts to encourage Jewish-Arab cooperation. He supported the creation of a Jewish national homeland in the British mandate of Palestine but was initially opposed to the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power.”
Fred Jerome in his Einstein on Israel and Zionism: His Provocative Ideas About the Middle East argues that Einstein was a Cultural Zionist who supported the idea of a Jewish homeland but opposed the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine preferring a bi-national state with “continuously functioning, mixed, administrative, economic, and social organizations.” In 1931, The Macmillan Company published About Zionism: Speeches and Lectures by Professor Albert Einstein. Querido, an Amsterdam publishing house, collected eleven of Einstein’s essays into a 1933 book entitled Mein Weltbild, translated to English as The World as I See It; Einstein’s foreword dedicates the collection “to the Jews of Germany”. In the face of Germany’s rising militarism, Einstein wrote and spoke for peace.
Einstein publicly stated reservations about the proposal to partition the British Mandate of Palestine into independent Arab and Jewish countries. In a 1938 speech, “Our Debt to Zionism”, he said: “I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish state. My awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain—especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against which we have already had to fight strongly, even without a Jewish state. … If external necessity should after all compel us to assume this burden, let us bear it with tact and patience.”
In a 1947 letter to Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru intended to persuade India to support the establishment of a Jewish state, Einstein stated that the Balfour Declaration’s proposal to establish a national home for Jews in Palestine “redresses the balance” of justice and history.
The United Nations did divide the mandate, demarcating the borders of several new countries including the State of Israel, and war broke out immediately. Einstein was one of the authors of an open letter to the New York Times in 1948 deeply criticizing Menachem Begin’s Herut (Freedom) Party for the Deir Yassin massacre (Einstein et al. 1948) likening it to “the Nazi and Fascist parties” and stated “The Deir Yassin incident exemplifies the character and actions of the Freedom Party”. The letter stated clear concerns for the future of Israel if the Freedom Party continued to gain power. When President Harry Truman recognized Israel in May 1948, Einstein declared it “the fulfillment of our (Jewish) dreams.” Einstein also supported vice president Henry Wallace’s Progressive Party during 1948 Presidential election which also advocate pro-Soviet and pro-Israel foreign policy.
Einstein served on the Board of Governors of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In his Will of 1950, Einstein bequeathed literary rights to his writings to The Hebrew University, where many of his original documents are held in the Albert Einstein Archives.
When President Chaim Weizmann died in 1952, Einstein was asked to be Israel’s second president, but he declined, stating that he had “neither the natural ability nor the experience to deal with human beings.” He wrote: “I am deeply moved by the offer from our State of Israel, and at once saddened and ashamed that I cannot accept it.