Sir, - The reasoning behind changing the wording of the current MK oath of allegiance from loyalty to "the State of Israel and its laws" to loyalty to the State of Israel as a "Jewish democratic state" is presumably to induce non-Jewish Members of the Knesset, primarily Arabs, to accept their minority status - to become resigned to being a minority in a land where they once were a majority for a long time. Gershon Baskin's comparison of the Arab minority in Israel with the Algerian minority in France and the Turkish minority in Germany is artificial, for unlike the latter two, the Israeli Arabs do not trace their ancestry to another land ("Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people and all its citizens," January 5).
Hence, the Knesset would be making a grave error if it passed the Israel Beiteinu Party's proposed bill. It would not change the majority mentality underlying the Israeli Arab pattern of thought, but it would increase the hostility.
DR. LILY POLLIACK
Sir, - If, according to the last statement in Gershon Baskin's essay, the future Palestinian state will "hopefully" also contain a minority of Jewish Israelis, then why demand a freeze on settlement building prior to negotiations on final borders? The worst that can happen is that those new buildings/homes will just change post office addresses after the final borders are decided.
Also, how does Mr. Baskin propose to ensure that Israel will remain a Jewish nation-state if immigration is completely open? How do you ensure a minority remains a minority? Hope, prayer?
NEIL S. FRIEDMAN
Unsafe at any speed
Sir, - Attempts by MK Shelly Yacimovich to have the law requiring adults to wear helmets while cycling in urban areas revoked is, if successful, the most disastrous and foolhardy piece of legislation ever to be passed by a government ("MK Yacimovich's proposed anti-bicycle helmet bill blasted by safety experts," January 5).
This appears to be an attempt by Yacimovich to draw attention to herself - and in so doing, she is stupidly putting our cycling population at high risk of serious injury. The reasons she gives for the revocation of the present law are utterly hare-brained. We sincerely hope that our government will use reasoned thinking and ignore them.
JACKIE and DAVID ALTMAN
More on the moratorium
Sir, - Binyamin Netanyahu's ability to withstand pressure has never been in doubt: He just can't do it. Max Singer opines that "a prime minister should make prudent tactical adjustments to avoid major dangers" ("Understanding the settlement moratorium," January 3). Netanyahu should in fact have flatly rejected President Obama's demands and, if necessary, "engaged in a political fight with the US to prevent Obama from compelling Israel to accept American demands."
We cannot live our lives according to the dictates of Obama. Our first priority should and must always be our own people. Max Singer writes that "Obama will be substantially weaker politically next fall than he was when he came to office... and if a fight is necessary, Israel will have a much better chance next summer." But by next year, the damage will be irreversible.
I agree with Mr. Singer when he says, "It is the responsibility of thoughtful and informed Israelis to figure out the logic of the Netanyahu decision and judge accordingly." And judged he will be, at the next primaries.
Sir, - Shame on Prime Minister Binaymin Netanyahu who, with his appeasement of Barack Obama, has inflicted a freeze on Jewish building in our biblical heartland. Why is it that Jewish leaders contradict the voters' mandate and threaten "shalom bayit" (domestic peace) for the sake of a peace with an enemy who is not interested?
As for the other Barak - perhaps if the offensive now being planned against the citizens of Judea and Samaria had been instituted against Hizbullah and Hamas, our POWs would be home, alive and well, with their families.
A matter of war...
Sir, - Your recent editorial on "The meaning of 443" (January 1) was one of the most spineless expositions I have ever read in the paper. What difference does it make that the original intention of the road was to allow Palestinians to share in its use? Their subsequent and continual behavior has been one of unrelieved hostility, and that fact changes the priorities of the original intentions. People or authorities attacking other people lose their civil rights. When will you unequivocally state that we are in a de facto war?
... and words...
Sir, - The obfuscation of which Charles Krauthammer speaks ("War? What war?," January 4) did not begin with Barack Obama. It began with the use of the code term "9/11" for that later "day in infamy," September 11, 2001. The acceptance of "9/11" effectively wipes out memory of time, place and person. Aside from that, it is confusing as a date: In some parts of the world it means September 11, and in others, November 9.
"September 11 Twin Towers, Pennsylvania, Pentagon" is not as easy to say as, "December 7, Pearl Harbor," but it merits the extra effort that keeps memory alive and undistorted - which is the only guarantor of clear thinking and sound judgment.
MIRIAM L. GAVARIN
... and water
Sir, - It is really shocking to read daily regarding the water crisis ("Out of their depth," January 3). The root cause is the growth of our population, which is over 7.5 million. Take a tour around the country and look at the number of high-rise buildings sprouting with modern amenities like jacuzzis and swimming pools, and the vast number of hotels and guest houses. Why are the Housing Ministry and the city planners not to blame as well?
And who is the wise guy who allotted a quota to every household? Has he given a thought to the senior citizen who spends most of his time at home? A working member of society uses all these facilities at work.
All Knesset members should be charged NIS 10 for using the toilets and sinks on the premises.
Why does Israel need the State Comptroller's Report when nobody pays attention to it?
N. E. SAMUEL
Tips for customers?
Sir, - "Tips on tips" (January 5) was a very informative article, as well as a sad one. But how about some advice for consumers? What should we do about good service to make sure that the person giving it gets the tip?
Diving in paradise
Sir, - We visited Phuket, Thailand, and took a day trip to the Phi Phi Island, where we had an opportunity, though short, to go snorkeling for the first time ("Living on a boat in the middle of the Andaman Sea, diving in paradise," January 3). It was an unforgettable experience: The beauty of the underwater world, the fish and plants, was unbelievable - the eighth wonder of the world. It is something we would encourage anyone who has the chance to do.
SHEILA and MATTY ROTENBERG