What comes after?

Sir, – Then-prime minister Ariel Sharon promised that a solution had been prepared and was available to address the needs of all those who were to be expelled from Gush Katif. Today, everyone knows that was a lie.

And now, regarding a neighborhood of Beit El, Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised: “For every house that is destroyed, I will build 10” (“PM wants to relocate 30 Ulpana outpost homes,” June 3).

Netanyahu’s track record would appear to indicate that his promise is no more reliable than Sharon’s. Besides which, how would this address the immediate needs and assuage the trauma of those whose homes he seems determined to destroy? The prime minister has had over a year to come up with a compassionate solution to the problem created by the Supreme Court’s ruthless, hardhearted decree that serves no one’s interests.

It should be remembered that the residents of the Ulpana neighborhood (it is not an outpost!) violated no laws when constructing or purchasing their homes. In fact, they were aided and supported by government agencies all the way up to the point of final permits from the Civil Administration.

The source of the problem today is that those permits were never issued. Nonetheless, there is no law as such that requires the demolition of these homes, the harsh and uncompromising decision of the Supreme Court notwithstanding.

The matter is in the hands of Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Given the will and the courage, he can still allow a free vote in the Knesset to save innocent Jewish families unnecessary pain and anguish.

MARVIN PACHINO
Jerusalem

Sir, – Do I detect a malodorous stench of duplicity? Prime Minister Netanyahu is avidly against legislation that would circumvent the top court’s decision to remove the Ulpana homes and has ordered his coalition members to oppose the bills. However, there seems to be a legitimate solution to this very grievous problem by relocating the 30 homes to land that has already been authorized for housing in the Beit El settlement.

The fact that the land has been authorized for such activity would seem sufficient and certainly not require any further decision by the attorney-general.

So if this can be technically accomplished, why is Netanyahu soliciting a judgment by the attorney-general before he decides to take such action? Could it be that by asking for this unnecessary decision he is signaling that he would not mind a negative response? Such a response would allow him to argue that he earnestly tried for a fair solution but was frustrated by the legal apparatus.

The settlers who have acted in good faith with the encouragement of Israeli governments from the Left and Right are surely entitled to fair and equitable treatment!

ZEV CHAMUDOT
Petah Tikva

Sir, – Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On, as a member of Knesset, helps make Israel’s laws, and the Supreme Court is supposed to be familiar with these laws and help enforce them.

There seems to be problems on both fronts regarding Ulpana.

First of all, the West Bank is captured territory lost to Israel by the Kingdom of Jordan in its failed attempt to annihilate the Jewish state in the Six Day War.

Local Arab land owners forfeited their property rights when Jordan lost the war and renounced its claim to the territory.

On these grounds there is no basis to evict 30 families and destroy valuable and well-constructed buildings. That the families lacked permission to build is another matter, which can be overcome with an appeal and possibly a fine.

Even more embarrassing, Gal- On is quoted as saying that building in the West Bank “would deal a death blow to the peace process.” Madam, there is no peace process. The West Bank is now a part of Israel. This point will become clear to one and all when we assert authority over the area’s educational system and its mass media. (Or does Israel’s minister of education insist on perpetuating anti- Semitism under the Israeli flag?) Both the leader of the Meretz Party and the Likud minister of education should know that there is no longer an Israeli/Palestinian conflict. There never was an independent Palestinian state, nor are there today citizens of such a non-existing state. The Arabs living in the West Bank were once citizens of Jordan, a citizenship they forfeited when that country lost the 1967 war and cut them off by rejecting the territory as part of its domain.

We could save so much time, money, sweat and tears if the Knesset and judiciary were required to take a course on what has happened since the Six Day War.

CHAYIM SEIDEN
Jerusalem

Who is a rabbi?

Sir, – I fully support your position (“Recognizing rabbis,” Editorial, June 3) that “the Jeffersonian separation of Church and State is universally applicable. Its goal is to protect the integrity of both religion and politics.... The state has no business interfering with religious autonomy... only religious movements should decide who is a rabbi and who is not.”

My only caveat is that these movements should organize themselves separately following the model of the various Christian denominations that are recognized by the state. If they define clearly their criteria for matters of such personal status as conversion, marriage, etc., they should be free to do so.

This would avoid “the mixing of religion and politics [that] has created absurd situations [where] secular courts have found themselves issuing decisions on purely religious matters.”

There would be a disadvantage in that membership in the Reform and Masorti (Conservative) movements would not imply automatic recognition of being a Jew in the eyes of the Orthodox, but this is a necessary price to pay. It could be avoided, of course, if they were willing to grant “Orthodoxy a monopoly over marriages, even if this discriminates against Israelis who are not Jewish according to Orthodox criteria” in order to avoid it.

Their response to this challenge would make clear whether they really are interested in upholding the unity of the Jewish people or are more concerned with furthering their own sectarian agendas.

MARTIN D. STERN
Salford, UK

Sir, – Thank you for your balanced editorial on the dilemmas and opportunities created by the State of Israel’s legal recognition – at last – of “rabbis of non-Orthodox communities.”

It is indeed a courageous decision.

Although I don’t necessarily agree with your view of “justification for granting Orthodoxy a monopoly over marriages,” I applaud your conclusion: “But when it comes to rabbis on the state payroll, the separation of religion and state would do nothing but good. Both Judaism and politics would benefit from the divorce.”

Your editorial is a contribution to reasoned, intelligent journalistic discussion.

RUTH RIGBI
Jerusalem

Sir, – Instead of authorizing salaries for liberal rabbis, our government should withdraw salaries from all rabbis.

Mishne Avot teaches us asei leha rav – we should choose rabbis for ourselves, not have them imposed on us. By putting rabbis on the government dole we have succeed primarily in empowering those who are hungry for political power and enjoy squabbling shamelessly among themselves.

The great 20th-century talmudic scholar Rabbi Shaul Lieberman, when asked for an example of humor in the Talmud, offered the line from Tractate Berhaot 64: Talmidei hahamim marbim shalom baolam (rabbis increase peace in the world.) Witty, indeed, and tragically true.

J.J. GROSS
Jerusalem

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