The Swedish two-state solution...
Sir, - The Swedish Government is pushing for EU policy to support the division of Jerusalem between Palestinian and Jewish states and for a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, even though that might trigger unilateral Israeli countermoves and the whole situation could deteriorate ("Barkat to EU foreign affairs chief: Jerusalem must stay united," December 8).
Regarding a "two-state solution," not too many people realize that what is now southern Sweden was once part of Denmark and that Sweden fought several wars in the 17th century to gain control of this area. Also, Norway was once a part of Denmark and then of Sweden, but the Norwegians wanted their independence and finally gained it, against Swedish opposition, in 1905. Why didn't Sweden believe in a two-state solution then, and why wasn't Stockholm equitably divided between Sweden and Norway?
...won't help in Jerusalem
Sir, - Gershon Baskin should understand that there are many other ways of creating a starting point for Israelis and Palestinians to talk to each other, apart from the discussion as to how Israel should carve up Jerusalem ("Two capitals for two states for two peoples," December 8).
Baskin has decided that because not one country in the world recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel, this justifies cutting the city in half. He tells us that doing so will in effect be the end of all Israel's troubles, and "Jerusalem will be recognized as the capital of Israel."
There is no capital city on the planet that is split in two parts as Baskin describes. In fact, divided cities have been a no-no and resulted in reunification, as happened in Berlin and Beirut in 1990, and Budapest in 1873. Why does he think Israel's capital is a different story?
Baskin fails to mention the carnage of past decades in Jerusalem caused by Islamic terror. He demands nothing of the Palestinians, or anything of Israel's neighbors; only Israel has to give in.
Baskin never discusses what would happen if Israel did split Jerusalem in two and pulled down all the security fences, including the one on the Gaza border. Does he think that would be the end of Arabs and Muslim countries' hatred for the Jewish people? What should the Arabs do to encourage Baskin's view of coexistence?
Baskin describes himself as "very Jewish and very Zionist"; he probably is both. But he is also very misguided and very impractical. The bottom line is that dividing the city of Jerusalem will not solve anything; in fact, it will make matters worse and be a Trojan horse inside the Jewish state.
Keep dignitaries - and refugees - out of Gaza
Sir, - We in Canada who wholeheartedly support Israel are sometimes saddened by the seeming victory that the Arabs and Palestinians appear to be making in the area of public relations. Just as Israel has competed brilliantly in the world of technology, science and medicine, so a more concentrated effort must be made in presenting its image to the world. Israel has allowed the Palestinians to define Israel in the minds of the world's citizens. More creativity is required..
I humbly provide one such example:
The Palestinians have held many of their own people hostage in squalid "refugee camps." Visiting dignitaries are taken to these awful places to see for themselves the terrible results of Israeli nationalism ("Gov't has de facto ban on foreign leaders entering Gaza," December 8). And it sells well. Most right-thinking people immediately accept this version of the "facts" and are enlisted in the pro-Palestinian cause. A non-Jewish friend of mine told me of his similar experience.
What if Israel decided that emptying these so called "refugee camps" was its top priority? The Israelis could announce that they were prepared to empty one of the settlements in the West Bank, provided that for every Jew who leaves, 20 refugees must be resettled in that settlement.
If the Palestinians said they could not afford to build the housing, Israel could offer to pay for it, and build the necessary housing for the new Palestinian "settlers." If the Palestinians refused the offer (as they probably would), they could be told in advance that this area would be annexed to Israel, since they obviously didn't want it.
CHARLES B. COHEN
Don't waste money on a freeze...
Sir, - If the government was being honest when it stated that the construction freeze would be in effect for only 10 months, there is no justification for squandering vast sums of taxpayer money ("Moratorium could cost half a billion shekels," December 7). If initiation of construction was defined as just that and not arbitrarily specified as after the pouring of cement, there would be no need for stop-work orders, as no work would have been done. All that would be required are aerial photographs of the communities so new construction could be detected.
This would eliminate the need to pay compensation for the construction delays and the cost of the additional inspectors, as well as of the police and soldiers assigned to affect access to the sites. The existing inspectors could then be assigned to monitor illegal Arab building.
Additionally, of much greater benefit would be the avoidance of altercations and the struggle of soldiers who are forced to act against their brethren and Zionistic ideals.
...or apartments on absentees
Sir, - Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat is 100 percent correct: If Jerusalem is to be a vibrant and living city, it needs permanent residents, not Diaspora Jews who reside here for two weeks ("Barkat urges homeowners living abroad to rent their J'lem properties," December 8). The latter situation results in inflated and distorted apartment costs, making it virtually impossible for many young prospective buyers or renters to afford and forcing them out of the city.
Do we really need this proliferation of luxury apartments for Diaspora non-residents? Building such apartment blocs aimed at overseas property owners is a non-productive and negative element in the city's economy and future. What will support the city's prospects if it includes an aging population along with many of the 9,000 empty apartments?
If overseas property owners refuse to rent their vacant property, a two-tiered arnona (property tax) payment should be instituted: one for local residents, and a higher rate for non-resident landlords - plus a capital gains tax when they sell their property. This additional revenue should be used to fund the various infrastructure problems the city faces and to improve the quality of life for the permanent residents.
Sir, - How many of those who object to Yaacov Neeman's affection for Torah-based law ("Neeman slammed for desiring Torah law," Online Edition, December 8) fall all over themselves whenever someone points to foreign law as a possible example?
If it's someone else's, they think it's good. If it's our own, it must be bad.
All the world's troubles
Sir, - Exactly how long will it take for the UN-sponsored climate summit in Copenhagen to blame Israel for global warming ("Climate conference opens in Denmark," December 8)?