Sir, - What a humorous farce our current political situation would be, were it not for the potentially serious consequences for our nation. We have a prime minister who seems to be made of Teflon, promising voters one thing while doing another.
Meanwhile, the prime minister's son awaits sentencing, yet he remains a member of the Knesset and a close advisor to his father. We have Knesset members who refuse to take action against one of their own, preferring instead to ignore the evidence and protect their inner circle.
And we have politicans who, when they don't foresee a promising future for advancement within their own parties, blithely skip from one party to another, piously giving the most specious arguments for doing so.
The latest to do so, Tzahi Hanegbi, is potentially facing charges of corruption ("Police recommend charging Hanegbi on illegal appointments," December 8). His reasons for switching parties were embarrassing and unctious. Perhaps he is hoping to acquire some of that Teflon. We are making a mockery of ourselves.
Abbas's 'foreign' policy
Sir, - The fruits of left-wing meddling in the right of Israel to its own sovereignty have ripened. During his recent visit to the Vatican, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas extended an invitation to the pope to visit the Holy Land. "You will be very welcome in Jerusalem and all the holy places," Abbas told the pope ("Pope meets with Abbas," December 4).
One has to wonder at the unmitigated gall. Imagine the head of the Oglala Sioux inviting Vladimir Putin to Washington, DC.
Emboldened by people like Yossi Beilin, Yossi Sarid and Shimon Peres - and given an Israeli foreign policy bereft of direction and substance - Abbas felt quite comfortable illegally conducting foreign policy for the State of Israel. Perhaps Prime Minister Sharon should sign up Mr. Abbas for his new party as well.
Sir, - One of the most talked about issues regarding the war in Iraq, that of low troop levels, has never been adequately explained ("Embattled Bush defends policy on Iraq," December 1). Why weren't there enough troops to secure the country after the initial stage of the war? I would like to offer an answer with insights into the methodologies that have guided the top civilian leadership of the country.
The answer is disturbingly simple. For over 20 years, Donald Rumsfeld, now the secretary of defense, has single-mindedly pursued a vision of a leaner, faster and more technically advanced military strike force. While he believed his vision for the armed forces was prophetic and correct, he needed a war to prove it.
Thus he overruled his top military advisors, who said they needed significantly more troops in Iraq, to prove his concept. He had to win the war, and the occupation, with a lower troop count.
I believe Rumsfeld was right about the need for dramatic changes in the military. But his pursuit of this one issue has had catastrophic consequences including a burgeoning and heavily armed insurgency, extending the duration of the occupation, and threatening the overall success of the invasion itself.
Sir, - Rabbis Avi Shafran and Michael Boyden seem to agree that most Jews are detached from their Jewish roots because of a lack of commitment and resources. Boyden criticizes the Israeli government ("Orthodoxy isn't the answer," December 6), while Shafran lays the blame at the feet of the Reform Movement ("Our convention and theirs," December 6).
Rabbi Boyden should ask himself why progressive movements are unable to influence more than a handful of Jews to make their Judaism relevant. He fails to realize that Israeli Jews no longer find the Jewish aspect of their identity compelling and have replaced it with an Israeli identity.
Rabbi Shafran should ask himself why the message of Orthodox Judaism has not been appealed to the majority of Jews. Most Jews perceive that the Orthodox establishment is power hungry and isolated from reality.
Both rabbis must understand that neither approach will win the battle for the Jewish heart and soul. Jewish leaders must seek to heal rifts and achieve consensus regarding what Judaism means.
Sarid will be missed
Sir, - Not only mayors of many development towns were disappointed when Yossi Sarid left the Education Ministry ("Sarid's savvy exit," December 4). Many parents - especially in Hatzor Haglilit - were also very sorry since, during his all-too-brief term of office, Yossi Sarid did all he could, successfully, to advance our local state religious educational system.
He showed true professionalism and total concern for the children for their own sake, and certainly expected no electoral benefits from a traditional/Orthodox population. He never let his well-known political views interfere with an obvious basic philosophy of "educating the child in his own special way," and proved this unequivocally in Hatzor Haglilit and many other places.
His honesty, integrity and ethical conduct will be sorely missed.
Sir, - I read with amazement John Bunn's letter ("...or not," December 8) in which he reports being spat on in Tel Aviv for being an American, while in Iran, Jordan and Lebanon he encountered only warm pro-American feelings.
Is he unaware that there were large anti-American demonstrations in all three of those countries to protest the war in Iraq? No such events occurred in Israel where the public is largely pleased that America intervened and toppled Saddam Hussein.
Is Mr. Bunn sure that the person who spat on him represents the Israeli majority? I believe his assailant expressed views that would not be supported by the general population.
Mr. Bunn notes that most Americans believe Israelis are more "pro-American" than others in the Middle East. This observation is correct. Mr. Bunn's conclusions to the contrary are not.
ARNOLD I. KISCH
Sir, - After reading so many letters of discontented and hurting Israeli citizens, I feel compelled to remind them of the following. Israel is the only nation privileged to be guarded, sustained and protected by God; it is the only nation ordained by God. History shows us that no other nation has been geographically scattered abroad and yet returned to its homeland!
Israel, you are the jewel before God's eyes 24/7.
Sir, - I am seeking help in setting up a pen pal ring for my 14-year-old twins. They are each participants in the Duke University Talent Identification Program for gifted eighth grade students in the US.
I am seeking individuals of any age, gender, profession or background to correspond once weekly.
LAUREN LAVY SMITH