Sir, - Mayor Lupolianski confuses "pragmatism" for facts ("Lupolianski: No chance of building homes in E1," December 28). Pragmatism is the result of evaluating a proposition based on its observable consequences.
In the debate over where to expand Jerusalem, facts are with the environmentalists who describe the inevitable observable reality of the Safdie plan as the "destruction of the open spaces and natural habitats..." ("The fight for the hills," December 2).
In contrast, Lupolianski's proposition regarding "Israel's relations with the international community - with the Americans and the Europeans" - is open to interpretation. Even if his political perception is correct today, given Jerusalem's interests for ecology, security and housing, Mayor Lupolianski should be joining the movement to educate the international community on the importance of building in E1.
Sir, - Jerusalem's priority should be to clean up the city, not expanding the municipal borders. Expand? People are leaving the city in droves. I live in a nominally clean and well-kept area of Jerusalem, but a 10-minute walk takes me to a neighborhood where litter is piled high, making a mockery of the proclamations of the Jewish people's love for Jerusalem. The situation is equally bad in many areas of the city.
What good is expanding the city's borders if the municipality and citizens will not share responsibility for keeping things clean? Will the new areas become garbage strewn too?
The city is "litter"ally going to waste! If this is the eternal capital of the Jewish people, let's prove it!
Sir, - The editorial "Jerusalem's dilemma" (December 28) ignored the fact that Jerusalem's expansion has been upwards as well as outwards.
Building-height regulations were relaxed by Teddy Kollek's administration, and even more under Ehud Olmert. Today there are many high-rises, with more under construction. The effect has been a gradual elimination of the city's panoramic views.
Worse is the congestion this glut of construction creates on city arteries. With several large residential projects under construction within a 20-minute walk of the city center, it's faster at times to walk to town than to drive.
Possible solutions include underground passes or overpasses to assist traffic flow. The former are unlikely in security-conscious Jerusalem, while the latter would further mar the city's beauty.
The problem could be put to future home-owners, the city's high school students. Teams could present bright ideas to an adjudicating panel of architects and town planners. Such a competition might inspire more creative solutions than anyone currently envisages and would engender community involvement.
Sir, - Paul Berman cites how difficult it is for the IDF to decide to discharge a soldier because it labels him unqualified to serve ("...or unfit to serve," Letters, December 27). However, he does seem to be aware of the soul searching that an idealistic soldier like Avi Bieber must go through when forced to choose between his beliefs and the army in which he truly wanted to serve.
It seems Mr. Berman cannot distinguish between painful dilemmas, which are integral elements in any moral heritage, and that which he dismisses as "political baggage."
The decision to disobey an army order is a very serious one and can have grave consequences for our society. I would point out, however, that Avi Bieber refused an order that was based not on defense or security, but on the task of uprooting law-abiding citizens from their homes.
I suggest it is the responsibility of our military forces to be wary of those who blindly follow orders.
Hazit for everything
Sir, - My name and my party, the Jewish National Front (Hazit), were lumped in with parties that "represent everything from extreme-right wing politics, to social affairs to legalizing marijuana" ("Chutes and ladders," December 23).
Admittedly, "everything" is what I and Hazit advocate, including:
â€¢ Democratizing the legislature by making its members individually elected by voters in constituency elections
â€¢ replacing Israel's autocratic system of prime ministerial government with a presidential system comparable to that of the US
â€¢ reforming the method of appointing judges to the Supreme Court (now a self-perpetuating oligarchy).
Hardly the menu of extreme-right wing politics.
Oh, and nothing in Hazit's platform calls for the expulsion or deportation of any law-abiding citizen of Israel. No Arab, therefore, will suffer the fate of the Jews of Gush Katif and northern Samaria as a result of the "extreme left-wing politics" of Ariel Sharon.
The Jewish National Front
Feiglin not a theocrat
Sir, - David Horovitz wrote that Moshe Feiglin's "declared aim is to utilize Israel's democracy in order to abandon it in favor of a halachic state" ("Sharon and assorted others," December 23). Feiglin's Jewish Leadership faction is, in fact, against religious coercion. It is for more Jewish content in education and for family values.
Far from abandoning democracy, Moshe Feiglin seeks to strengthen it. He is a leader who has risen steadily through the grass-roots support of ordinary people - many of them secular. Feiglin is no more a theocrat than any US president who professes belief in God.
Sir, - Samuel G. Freedman tells us about Steven Spielberg's struggle with guilt, Zionism and revenge after the tragedy of the Munich massacre of the Israeli athletes ("What's rally behind the 'anti-Exodus,'" December 28). Yet again, another tormented Jew tries to sort out the finer moral points involved in surviving in a hostile world.
A really interesting alternative, however, would be a Palestinian version of Munich. No doubt it would have a lot of self-exculpatory material, on the order of Jenin, Jenin, and adeptly demonize Israelis. Whatever it would show, you can bet that the "Arab Spielberg" wouldn't have a lot of self-doubts, and that would be the biggest tragedy.
A go at 'no-go'
Sir, - In analyzing Israel's latest attempt to prevent Kassam rockets from reaching our territory by creating a "no-go" zone in the Gaza Strip, Gidi Greenstein of the Reut Institute think-tank said Israel is in a trap: If it enters the Gaza Strip to stop the rockets it "corrodes all those reasons that it left Gaza" ("'No-go' is a no-go," December 28).
This is a remarkable statement. First, I don't recall Prime Minister Sharon ever clearly explaining why, exactly, he decided it was necessary to remove all Israelis from the Strip. Perhaps Gidi Greenstein knows something I don't. However, if we presume that Sharon's intention was, in effect, to give the Palestinians what they have claimed was their goal - an end to occupation - it would follow that the Palestinians, having gained their objective, would stop the rockets. Since they haven't, it is not Israel that has "corroded" the reasons for leaving Gaza; rather it is the Palestinians.
Mistakes in Iraq
Sir, - For a very long period Iraqis lived under a regime which took care of all security and defense matters. The US and its allies made two telling mistakes when they removed this regime from power by war: They disbanded the army of Saddam Hussein and started to train people who had little military experience; and second, they did not allow for the fact that it would take some years to do so. In addition, this training should have been done outside Iraq, in the US or UK.
Eventually, when the Syrian regime falls, the same circumstances will present themselves. If Iraq-style solutions are implemented, a long period of unrest is sure to follow.
Sir, - A number of years ago I questioned Clalit on the price of Losec ("Clalit charges highest co-payments for commonly prescribed drugs," December 25). I got the same answer as was reported in the article: the co-payment is NIS 11 per unit. Pushing further I was told, however, that the portion which that payment buys is not a fixed measure.
Therefore, while NIS 11 will buy 30 tablets of Elatrol and Normiten, it only gets 20 tablets of Betravit. For Losec the amount is only 12 tablets. The program "set and approved by the Knesset Finance Committee in August 1998" did not create a fixed unit, leaving the health funds to juggle quantities undisturbed.
Sir, - One element in the article abount smoking rates is so far from the truth that it is sad. It reads "...while Israel has strong laws barring smoking in public areas and workplaces, they are often unenforced" ("US expert: Israel 'way behind the times' in smoking rates," December 27).
They are not "often" unenforced; the fact is, they are never enforced. I, and others I know, have repeatedly complained at restaurants, malls and buildings. The guards or restaurant owners always shrug their shoulders and do nothing, even when people are smoking directly beneath "no smoking" signs. Until Israel actually tries to enforce laws, and until those who are guilty are heavily fined, nothing will change.