October 20: Friends vs foes

Closer to home, Obama unceremoniously threw Syrian citizens into the arms of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

October 19, 2013 22:40

Letters 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Sir, – Help! He’s doing it again! All it took was a smile and cheap words from Tehran to buy time from US President Barack Obama (“White House: Iran offered proposal with ‘seriousness, substance’ at Geneva talks,” October 17). Of course, the Iranians can still proceed with their bomb-making program.

Closer to home, Obama unceremoniously threw Syrian citizens into the arms of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Is President Putin, the KGB graduate, now a friend of the US? As for enemies, Obama finally found one: The Republican Party. For weeks, instead of serious negotiations, he followed a policy of name-calling. “Extortionists.”

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“Blackmailers.” This was hardly conducive to solving America’s debt-ceiling crisis.

We’ve noticed before that Obama needs help differentiating friends from enemies. Just as military aircraft have a system called IFF (Identification Friend or Foe), I wish we could install something similar in the Oval Office.

What a shame.

THELMA JACOBSON Petah Tikva Wonderful page Sir, – Kol hakavod and thank you for featuring (on the same wonderful page) Barry Rubin’s “What will happen now with US Middle East policy?’” and Gilad Sharon’s “The stabilizing force in the region” (Comment & Features, October 7).

A graduate of South African apartheid, I was understandably euphoric about Barack Obama’s ascent to eminence. However, as his mesmerizing addresses continued to flow with impeccable poetry I began to vacillate between hope and doubt – until reading the aforementioned articles.

Writing with his usual knowledgeable and logical intelligence, Rubin won me over to agreeing with his (and the Bard’s) views that Obama’s rhetoric “is a tale told....”

(Here, even depleted admiration does not allow the completion of the quotation.) I must confess to a partiality for Sharon’s interpretation of the Israel-bashing of the players in the region – that if we had not obliged them they would have had to invent an Israel as the cause of their grievous ills.

ETTIE AMAN GOLDWATER Jerusalem Rabin vs Lincoln Sir, – This year, as every year since Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, his death is commemorated by many large and small public gatherings, school assemblies and official government memorials (“Netanyahu: Border must remain in Jordan Valley – like Rabin said,” October 17).

We are reminded time and again to learn what we can from Rabin’s legacy. And year after year Rabin is compared to Abraham Lincoln, that great American president who was assassinated not far into his second term. In fact, after Rabin’s murder, “O Captain! My Captain!” the poem Walt Whitman wrote after Lincoln’s murder, was translated into Hebrew, put to music and used to mourn Rabin.

I believe it is time to see the differences rather than the similarities in these leaders and their murders. Lincoln was killed because he successfully prevented his quite large country from being divided. Slavery was indeed an issue, but not the root cause of the American Civil War. Those who insist we all learn from Rabin’s legacy wish us to give away (not give back) parts of the heartland of the minuscule State of Israel.

The leaders of the Confederacy never threatened to attack the US if they were free to declare their independence. On the other hand, Israel has been attacked and its citizens killed and wounded countless times by the people who insist that our country belongs to them and not to us, and that we must concede land to them. Even those Jews who were born here, this writer included, are considered by them to be interlopers and threatened with destruction.

Abraham Lincoln would have given short shrift to such behavior.

He did not agree that peace accompanied by the destruction of the union would be acceptable.

Is there really great similarity between the two? RHEA ISRAEL Rehovot Real guilty party Sir, – With regard to “Rights to the Temple Mount” by David Kirshenbaum (Comment & Features, October 16), I find it unbelievable that the government of Israel, right up to the Supreme Court, continues to address Arab violence against Jews on the Temple Mount by punishing Jews! That the government of Jordan usurps Judaism’s holiest site and forbids Jews from praying there because it will offend Arabs is insane. We cannot continue to allow the threats of violence against Jews who break no laws to cause their banishment and arrest. The police must arrest and punish the Arabs, those who really provoke the violence, verbal or otherwise.

Why do we not hear anything about this pressing issue in the Jerusalem mayoral campaign? Why is it not at the top of the agenda for the religious affairs minister? And certainly, not enough Likud cabinet ministers are taking this seriously.

Until we stand up for Jewish rights, punish the real troublemakers and bring peace to the Temple Mount, we will never really have a united Jerusalem.

GLADYS KARLIN Modi’in Sir, – The city of Jerusalem, like the country’s other local authorities, will be holding elections this week. The parties fielding candidates range from the extreme Left to the Right.

The fact that a Jew is arrested for uttering a few words of prayer on the Temple Mount should have the left-wing parties utterly dismayed and concerned about civil liberties.

Those who profess the need to protect the rights of every individual should be in the forefront of the battle to change the situation on the Temple Mount. This is a crucial issue of individual rights.

BATYA KOENIGSBERG Jerusalem Reckless gamble Sir, – A careful reading of the text of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s and US President Barack Obama’s statements after their September 30 meeting in Washington reveals a fundamental difference in their thresholds for triggering intervention in Iran.

The president said Iran must not be allowed to possess a bomb. The prime minister said it must be stopped from making the bomb. Obama, somewhat perilously, permits Iran to advance to being a turn of the screw away. The latter calls for precautionary measures that do not allow Tehran to make that advance and come so close to the finish line.

It is highly likely that there will be a lag in time between the point when the technician in the workshop turns that last screw, and the point in which that event is detected, given the ease of concealment and deceit. Worse, there will be a subsequent lag in time between having the information and generating the political will to act.

It follows that Obama’s threshold represents a highly reckless – and unnecessary – gamble given Iran’s declared intentions and past record of deception. The highly probable risks from not stopping the Iranians with much tougher sanctions are far greater than the non-existent risks of much tougher sanctions.

In environmental epidemiology, the precautionary principle states that when there is uncertainty as to whether a potentially catastrophic outcome might occur, it is prudent not to wait for proof. We do not wait for proof of a hurricane; we board up our houses.

If the hurricane peters out, so be it.

Using the hurricane analogy, I suggest that the case for applying a precautionary strategy is critical. Better to be safe than sorry. Better now than later. The clock is ticking.

ELIHU D. RICHTER Jerusalem The writer is a physician and teaches at Hebrew University- Hadassah School of Public Health and Community Medicine

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