Sir, - I was very impressed by how smoothly the election process went in my neighborhood. At the polling station there was plenty of security, making me feel safe; an ample number of support staff to help voters find their exact polling sites, making me feel cared-for; competent poll watchers, making me feel all was fair - and a general sense that this was how democracy was supposed to work.
Not bad, given the fragmentation in our society. If only every day were election day.
So frustrated I couldn't vote
Sir, - Having lived in Israel for more than 13 years, as a non-Jewish resident for four of them, it is becoming increasingly difficult to be emotionally involved with this country and yet be excluded from voting in national elections.
While I can cast a ballot in the municipal polls - and that's a measure of comfort - how I wish I could play a part in determining the course that my beloved, adopted country will steer over the next few years.
Stopping future 'funny business'
Sir, - One hopes that on election day the Central Elections Committee made sure to prevent incidents such as occurred in past elections, when observers from certain parties at polling booths in areas where they knew the local population would not be voting for those parties attempted to delay the proceedings by raising numerous objections to voters.
As a result, long lines formed outside polling booths and the interminable delays meant that the elderly and infirm, in particular, were actively discouraged from voting. They often returned home without doing so.
So as not to hold things up, what needs to be done, of course, in the case of any query regarding a voter's identity is for the person to be told to return at the end of the day with clear identification.
One would like to see severe penalties meted out to any party representative proved to have attempted to use delaying tactics, or to have raised specious objections in order to prevent voters exercising their democratic right.
Major & minor
Sir, - Your election day issue (March 28) included a final interview with a candidate from each of "six major parties." These included Meretz, but excluded United Torah Judaism, and even Shas.
Your front page ran a final poll that predicted Shas: 10 seats , UTJ: 6 and Meretz: 6. Why, therefore, was Shas not one of the "six major parties"? For that matter, why did Meretz's 6 count for more than UTJ's?
Who resurrected Palestinian statehood?
Sir, - "Time for a real reassessment" (Editorial, March 27) contained some statements requiring correction. US policy, it averred, "has, since 1967, been based on producing two states through a land-for-peace trade."
It went on: "Explicitly or not, UN Security Council Resolution 242, the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, the Madrid Conference, Oslo, the 2000 Camp David summit, and the road map have all attempted to steer the parties toward a negotiated peace along the same lines."
In fact, UN Security Council Resolution 242 said nothing, even indirectly, about a two-state solution. The interlocutors of Israel were clearly deemed to be the neighboring Arab states, including Jordan, rather than the Palestinians, who were not mentioned at all. (There is only an oblique reference to unspecified "refugees.")
Similarly, the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty of 1979, concluded between Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, did not provide for Palestinian statehood; and Begin certainly never endorsed or even entertained such an idea.
In 1991, in connection with the Madrid Conference, the administration of President George Bush the elder conveyed a letter of assurance to prime minister Shamir stating that the United States would not support the creation of a Palestinian state.
The Oslo Accord of 1993 was a crucial turning point in this, as in so many other matters; yet it did not refer to statehood; and even after it, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin insisted on referring always to a Palestinian "entity," rather than a state.
For the US, it was George W. Bush who reintroduced, most explicitly, the notion of "two states living peacefully side-by-side" - an idea that had been consigned to oblivion after being so emphatically rejected by the local Arabs and Arab states in 1947.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was the first Israeli premier to formally endorse the idea. Thus its resurrection is of recent origin.
PROF. SHLOMO SLONIM
The Editor responds:
You are correct that UN Security Council Resolution 242 does not refer to two states, but it did launch the land-for-peace paradigm, as we stated. This paradigm, over time, evolved into the "two-state solution." The evolution was implicit long before it was explicit. Ironically, the first US president to make it an explicit goal, George W. Bush, was also the first to make its realization conditional on Palestinian behavior, namely, on democratization and the abandonment of terror.
Those two 'jewel' words
Sir, - Finally, an awakening. Freda Keet asks, "What is it about the Palestinians?" (Letters, March 27). She can get the simple answer by reading Arthur Cohn's "The 'occupation' is the problem" (March 23), as well as Alex Szczeciniarz's comments (Letters, March 27); and Elchanan Pels's original letter ("Responding to the 'occupation,'" March 19).
Our Arab neighbors have redefined and polished into jewels two terms - "Palestine/Palestinians" and "occupation" - in a process for which a public relations firm would normally charge millions of dollars.
I would suggest that our new prime minister designate one of his deputy ministers to deal with these two words, and nothing else. It is high time these terminologies were exposed. Not a day should go by without every use of the word "occupation" being rebutted. And much should be said about when and how the term "Palestinians" came about, and to whom it was originally applied.
It would be a full-time job - but a very worthwhile one; and it would give one deputy minister at least justification for his salary.
War or peace
Sir, - Re Barry Rubin's "Hamas governs" (March 27):
The organization's landslide election victory in the Palestinian National Council may yet be best for Israel. Up to now we didn't really know where we stood with the Palestinians on peace. Now we have two choices: War or peace.
What America owes Iraq
Sir, - Shlomo Avineri's "Iraq's only way out?" (March 21) was insightful, a must-read for all.
We are not to see a kinder, gentler and democratic society in Iraq, never mind the recent election there. The country is divided, with the Sunnis and Shi'ites at each other's throats.
The Americans cannot change the situation, but neither can they leave Iraq; they must remain within the Kurdish area so the country's neighbors do not take advantage of its weakness. America owes Iraq that.
The odds are against a unified Iraq. Perhaps the country will separate into Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish states. These people cannot live together - but can they live apart, peaceably?
It won't be easy. The land and oil wealth must be apportioned; but that isn't America's job.
Undignified, unworthy at the Western Wall
Sir, - I just returned from Israel where my grandson had his bar mitzva at the Western Wall. The ceremony was wonderful and brought me great naches, but I would like to raise one issue that I found very disturbing.
While the religious ceremony was taking place on the "male" side of the mehitza divider, we women - mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts and cousins - on the "female" side had to scrounge for wobbly plastic chairs so we could climb up and look over the mehitza in order to see the ceremony. As you can imagine, this created a situation that was both frantic and dangerous ("Segregation barriers go up in Western Wall plaza," October 17, 2005).
Why is it not possible to have a platform with steps on the women's side of the mehitza so that we can observe a bar mitzva ceremony in some degree of safety and comfort?
The current situation betrays a lack of respect and honor for women, especially the mothers and elderly grandmothers of the bar-mitzva boy, who have to climb like monkeys and hang on as best they can to see the ceremony. It is undignified and unworthy of such an important religious occasion.
Albany, New York
Sir, - I am very delighted to write you this letter. I am 18, and a student. I'm looking for pen pals from your country. My hobbies are music, films and collecting postcards and pictures. I'm looking forward to hearing from some new friends.
Please write to P.O. Box 1722, Koforidua - E/R, Ghana.
English-language film will be made here
Sir, - I am an American who lives in Israel and produces movies. Regarding American movies not being shot here anymore (Cine File, Billboard, March 17-24), I am now specially developing an English-language film to be shot here and shown abroad. I will hire local writers, director and actors (some of whom I am already working with) and hire the American star for the purpose of international distribution only.
It takes some effort and willingness to put up with the local attitude, but it can be done.
Spiral Solutions Group
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