Sir, - I resigned from the Likud 17 years ago after then Likud chairman Yitzhak Shamir brought me before the movement's "court" on charges of "ideological deviation." Along with meeting representatives of the PLO I became the first member of a movement that called for abandoning the dream of Greater Israel, dividing the Land - including Jerusalem - and ending the century-long conflict in order to become a normal nation.
Other ideological deviants from the Likud followed - Aryeh Naor, Ezer Weizman, Dan Meridor and now, Ariel Sharon. The common denominator between us was willingness to compromise ideologically in favor of improving reality.
Ruling parties end their role when they become politically irrelevant, corrupt and ideologically anachronistic. That's what happened to the historic Mapai, which carried the flag of a naive socialism into the 1977 elections; and it is happening today to the Likud, which still defends the dream of Greater Israel.
Sharon parted from the legacy of Ze'ev Jabotinsky and joined that of Ehud Barak, Levi Eshkol, David Ben-Gurion and Theodor Herzl, all of whom chose realism over ideology. They were ready not only to divide the Land of Israel but Jerusalem too.
Sharon's resignation from the Likud represents the wind of reality in the face of the false prophets who promise peace, security and retaining the entire Land of Israel. The next elections will create a new political center that includes Amir Peretz's new Labor and Sharon's new Likud. The old, ideological, Likud will return to the size of Herut in the First Knesset - eight seats, no more. So ends the Greater Israel adventure ("Sharon decides to bolt Likud," November 21).
Sir, - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's decision to form a new centrist political party reminds me of a situation that occurred in American politics in the early 1900s.
After failing to receive the nomination of his own Republican Party, former US president Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt decided to form his own party, which became known as the Progressive Party or, more colorfully, "The Bull Moose Party." Incorporating more liberal platforms, including the right of women to vote, it attracted people from both the Republican and Democratic parties; but in spite of running an exciting and colorful race on the new party's ticket Roosevelt lost out to the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, as a result of the split in the Republican Party.
With Sharon taking several prominent Likud Party members with him, including Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra and Transport Minister Meir Sheetrit, the result could be a severe split within the Likud, seriously weakening it, the result ending up like the 1912 US election. An attempt to form a coalition between Sharon's new "Bull Moose Party" and perhaps the centrist Shinui would be difficult at best, and even more complicated with the "new" Labor Party.
With Amir Peretz now heading that party Israeli politics may be set to take a new and different direction.
Sir, - Our prime minister seems to be suffering from a bad case of hubris. He plans to take between 10 and 15 current members of the Likud with him to be the nucleus of his new party, plus whoever else wants to join. No one will know exactly what this party stands for since the political center keeps shifting. Some even say Amir Peretz will be the centrist on the security issue.
Unfortunately Ariel Sharon has a track record as head of a strong Likud, and this record is part of his biography which he will have to sell to the voters. Beyond the slogan "Believe in me" I do not think he can be a credible candidate with a strong platform. I believe he was ill-advised and will rue the day he decided to go it alone.
Sir, - Why is everyone so surprised that Arik Sharon wants to leave the Likud? The media describes him as a "realist" and as such he surely realizes that if he were to lead the Likud very many voters who trusted him in the last election would not vote Likud again. Having betrayed the voters' trust by his turnabout on unilateral withdrawal without any explanation to the people, and enforcing his will so undemocratically, why should he think they will trust him now?
Sir, - Your November 20 report of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's remorseful undertaking not to hit any more Muslims or Arabs by terror, and your two reports of November 21 ("Halutz: Sanctions won't deter Iran" and "Shalom: UN unlikely to tackle Iran nukes"), taken together, require a reassessment of Israeli policy regarding further withdrawals. On the one hand, the dreadful prospect of Tel Aviv and similar areas with a predominantly Jewish population becoming incendiary and radioactive graveyards can no longer be wished away by saying "It won't happen"; on the other hand, other localities, like many sectors of Jerusalem and Galilee, possess some immunity from nuclear attacks because of their proximity - say, 15 kilometers - to Arab populations.
Best positioned are the Jewish settlements placed in the midst of Arab villages, like Hebron (or Netzarim before its fateful relocation). They will not likely be targeted by Iran or terrorist proxies. Not only are these settlements safe per se, they could with proper planning provide refuge for a large number of Jews in the threatened areas within the Green Line.
The retention of the settlements thus answers a desperate need dictated by new circumstances. I believe the reasons given for this will be accepted also by the international community.
Vindicate Capt. R
Sir, - "The trial of Captain R" (Editorial, November 20) was to the point and forceful. It is a shame this officer was so unfairly maligned. A biased, attack-happy press should be called on to retract its faulty reporting, notably Ilana Dayan's telecast.
The one aspect you didn't touch on was the soldiers who gave false testimony because of a personal grudge. The damage they did cannot be measured and will be difficult to rectify. These soldiers should be put on trial. Captain R may be too much of "an officer and gentleman" to demand some action, but the IDF and Israeli citizens should not hold back.
A. I. GOLDBERG
Sir, - Erica Chernofsky's "Inside out" (November 17) gave a tolerable view of the dilemma facing the residents of Tekoa, and eastern Gush Etzion, if the security fence is built.
However the Jews of the Gush have to deal with constant talk of "not damaging the lives... land... mobility...of the Palestinians," with rarely a word about the problems they themselves will face. They have lived in their lovingly-built homes, worked their land and run their businesses for nigh on 30 years.
In spite of their own appalling experiences of death from terror, the Jews do not demand an Arab-free state, whereas it is clear that any Palestinian agreement demands the land be judenrein.
Also, the photo you ran was so foreshortened as to make it appear that Tekoa is sitting atop an Arab village. This is far from the case - the village of Charmela lies right across the wadi, some two kilometers away by car.
Sir, - Asher Meir's comments about GM labelling ("Frankenfoods," November 17) would be valid if the matter were one of a market in which consumers make choices according to the merits of what is on offer. But in this case, of course, it is not like that.
The products are expressly maligned by groups and individuals trying to suppress the whole technology for a variety of political and commercial motives. A largely gullible public, unfamiliar with agriculture and biotechnology, are deliberately misled and their confidence undermined by a series of unsubstantiated stories; as soon as one scare is dismissed, another is promulgated.
Moreover, those maligners do not confine themselves to stories; they also perpetrate deliberate acts of vandalism. Retailers (in Europe, at any rate) hesitate to put the materials on their shelves for fear of store invasions and public protests by activists. In a very competitive market they feel such manifestations will not help business. It may be "a storm in a teacup," but in that teacup it is very stormy.
In the US goods are labeled for what they are and what they contain, not how they were made. If production information were suddenly displayed, wouldn't people wonder: Is it a warning? Should they avoid such products?
When the time comes - and it may not be that far away - manufacturers and retailers will no doubt use prominent labeling to promote GM products for the benefits they confer. But they are not quite there yet.
Sir - Since I've been attacked for claiming to be poor - and by someone who doesn't even know who I am - I feel entitled to strike back a bit ("That's rich!" Letters, November 21). First of all, "poor" doesn't mean only lack of money. There's also poorness of spirit, which I'm afraid is the case in this person. But how about this: Is someone with a monthly income less than his monthly outflow poor? If so, I qualify. My only regret is that my contributions to worthy causes have had to be drastically reduced. That really hurts, but what can I do?
Just remember, when Amir Peretz beats Sharon and his new party, and Bibi, that you saw it here first!
My friend Sheffie
Sir, - In 1968, when I was 27 and living in Tel Aviv, I had a wonderful friend called Sheffie Biederman, who was an assistant director at the Habima Theater. I expect to visit Israel in the next year and would so like to get in touch with her. She would be in her late 50s. Can anyone help?
Sir, - Your editorial writer is 100 percent correct ("Make biking safer," November 21). However, he left out one very important point: Many cyclists on the highways do not make themselves visible. They ride along in drab-colored clothes and are actually invisible. If cyclists wore very bright colors maybe the half-asleep drivers would see them, resulting in fewer accidents and fewer deaths.