President Abbas's aim
Sir, - Your report "Abbas weighs dismissing Haniyeh, creating emergency cabinet" (April 23), citing sources close to President Abbas, is unfounded and totally untrue. President Abbas is engaged in finding ways to bring Haniyeh's government into line and adopt the President's political program. The President is working on ending the financial and diplomatic boycotts of the Palestinian people and Authority, and is exerting much effort to renew the peace process. He was and still is an advocate of giving the new government the time necessary to alter its position and to work in coherence with the President. His position is for the parties to settle their legitimate differences through ongoing constructive dialogue, and to protect the higher national interests of the Palestinian people.
Office of the President
See you there
Sir, - 27 ministers! If that isn't a waste of taxpayers' money, I don't know what is ("Olmert, Peretz, agree on largest gov't ever," April 23). Likud MK Michael Eitan's "The only thing that will unite the coalition is the glue of corruption" just about sums it up.
How can Kadima and Labor officials compare Amir Peretz to Moshe Arens, who received the Israel Defense Prize and is an MIT graduate, a former Technion associate professor of aeronautical engineering and former VP at Israel Aircrafts Industry, as well as a former Israeli ambassador to the US? What is Amir Peretz's qualification for Defense besides heading the Labor Party?
Prediction: Huge government equals a weak coalition, questionable future public trust, questionably qualified ministers and, most likely, new elections in two years.
See you at the polls.
Sir, - If you get the hiccups, read an Israeli newspaper. In "Arab MKs visit Hamas legislator" (April 20) I was shocked to read that one of Hamas's visitors, Taleb a-Sanna, has become "the first Arab MK to be appointed to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee."
What kind of country at war invites the enemy into its legislature? In World War II all you had to do was speak German and they shipped you out to Australia. But in Israel you can share a hookah with the enemy next door and still be eligible for no less than a government defense committee.
Half the story
Sir, - Nathan Guttman is right when he reports that Iran was elected as a vice-chair of the UN Disarmament Commission ("UN Disarmament Board chooses Iranian," April 19). But it is surprising that he failed to mention that one of the other vice-chairs is Israel, elected for a second consecutive term. You might also note that the Disarmament Commission has eight vice-chairs, not three.
Director of Communications
Sir, - Re Larry Derfner's "If welfare is bad, why is charity good?" (April 20): Surely it is easy to see the difference between private and public charity. Private charities gave America institutions such as The Smithsonian, and art museums in cities such as Los Angeles, New York and Boston, and are a way for the wealthy to improve our lives. Public support of the poor, as opposed to private support such as soup kitchens, is a different matter.
In the US, as in Israel, a third of the national budget goes to transfer payments. Such an amount is enough to bankrupt any country; it would have bankrupted Israel had it not been for Binyamin Netanyahu's welfare cuts.
I refer Mr. Derfner to Free to Choose by Milton Friedman, which explains the harm of the present welfare systems, which are well-meaning but fraught with disaster.
Sir, - Among developed nations Israel has one of the highest percentages of "unproductive" people, many of whom do not serve in the army and are unemployed, doomed to a life of poverty and dependant on welfare and charity. Then there are those who do not want to work and look to others for support.
People with low incomes - pensioners and those unable to work - should be adequately provided for, but there cannot be a welfare "free for all." Countries like France and Germany that have brought in highly unrealistic social welfare benefits for the masses have found themselves on the verge of bankruptcy since there are not enough people in the workforce to sustain the benefits to the unproductive unemployed.
Pensions should be sacrosanct and increased where possible. The minimum wage should be strictly enforced and gradually increased, taking into account unemployment and the state of the economy. Simply upping it to $1,000 would result in non-competitiveness in local industry and more unemployment.
These matters need careful investigation and realistic remedies. There is a place for welfare, and a place for charity.
Sir, - First and foremost we give charity because God commands us to. That said, my charitable giving has changed radically since I moved to Israel from the US.
There my donations were made to large, faceless, overhead-laden organizations in the hope that some funds would find their way to those who needed them. Here the bulk of my giving is directed to local organizations, and I am now sure of two things: The beneficiaries live within the same square kilometer as I do, and these organizations have very little overhead. I am confident that 99% of the funds reach those in need.
I much prefer having this control, when I think of the funding of a welfare state, where the majority of tax dollars are wasted in the government apparatus before a single soul is helped.
Sir, - Re "Avoid a minimum wage showdown" (Editorial, April 16): An obvious solution for both employer and worker is not for the government to raise the minimum wage, but for it to lower taxes so the worker takes home more of his hard-earned money. This would increase consumer spending and result in more VAT paid by the retailer, higher profit to the supplier, and more income tax paid to the government.
And while the government is about it, it might look at what an ambitious worker has to pay if he takes a second job - 50% in tax. This is ridiculous, discouraging many from working harder.
Sir, - In response to Magen David Adom's call for blood donors due to an acute shortage of blood, I called my local MDA station during the intermediate days of Pessah to ask what time I could attend. I do not own a car. I was told the nearest place to donate blood was in Herzliya! As that town is a 45-minute bus ride away and buses leave one an hour, the idea was totally impractical.
Surely a city such as Petah Tikva, with a relatively new MDA station, can do better? ("MDA asks tourists for their blood,' April 17.)
Where there's a Will
Sir, - A big welcome to US performers Will and Jada Pinkett Smith ("Will Smith soaks up Jewish history," April 23). High-profile entertainers visiting and showing support for Israel and the Jewish people is invaluable in the face of continuing anti-Semitism, including in its virulent form of "anti-Israelism."
My only request is that you not only hearken to our brothers on the left of the political spectrum. Visit and speak to members of the political and social Right such as the National Union, the families expelled from Gaza, and the people living in Judea and Samaria. There is much more you need to know in order to comprehend our situation here and relay it back in the US.
And may I add, as a Canadian admirer: Please come visit us in Beit Shemesh!