Majority of one
Sir, - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, like the vast majority of Israeli leaders, clearly has no understanding of democracy. "I do not know what the people want. I know what is good for the people," Sharon quoted David Ben-Gurion approvingly this week, calling this Ben-Gurion's "great virtue" ("Sharon parallels his actions to Ben-Gurion's 'painful concessions,'" December 8).
And there you have it: A democracy not "of the people, by the people, for the people" but rather led by an autocrat who is not interested in the public will.
An unflattering comparison can be made with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's comment one day before that he views the Fatah primaries as non-binding on his choice of candidates for the upcoming PLC elections ("Abbas said 'enraged' by chaos in Fatah vote," December 7). This, of course, recalls Sharon's ignoring the referendum he held in his own Likud party which rejected his unilateral Gaza withdrawal, not to mention Sharon's disregarding the overwhelming mandate he received in 2002 to oppose Amram Mitzna's unilateral withdrawal plan.
As long as Israel's leaders continue to define democracy as "If I have a majority I can do what I want," we will all suffer.
Center or self-centered?
Sir, - Kadima is trying to sell itself as the party of the center. As I watch politicians from both Right and Left drop their lifelong principles and ideologies in order to race to the party they believe is most likely to give them the perks of power ("Hanegbi quits Likud for Kadima," December 8), it seems to me a more honest description would be: The party of the self-centered.
Sir, - I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of a great man and great friend of Israel, Kaare Kristiansen ("Righteous Gentile, Kaare Kristiansen, 1920-2005," December 8). As a former member of the Nobel Committee, he resigned when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Yasser Arafat.
Some years ago, when I was the English-language spokesperson of Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem, I had the honor of taking him on a tour of the facility and spending some time with him.
One seldom meets a man of such integrity and dignity. Indeed, his goodness seemed to shine from him. Those of us who were privileged to enjoy his company briefly all knew instinctively that we were in the presence of a truly great man.
His association with the Root and Branch Organization in Jerusalem brought him to our country on many occasions. May his memory be for blessing. We are all diminished by his passing.
Pride in a hero
Sir, - As a professional security officer in Montreal, I wish to express my condolences to the family of Haim Amram, the security guard killed by the suicide bomber at the Sharon Mall in Netanya.
He makes me proud of our profession. He is a hero for the many lives he saved in sacrificing his own.
Sir, - The news that the International Red Cross is on the brink of admitting Magen David Adom is the good news ("Full MDA membership in IRC expected to 'crystallize,'" December 6). The bad news is worse: The Star of David will be overshadowed with a the neutral image of a red "crystal."
Let us be clear what this is about. It is not about providing medical care, which is what the IRC is supposed to focus on. It is not about the quality of care, as no one seriously disputes that Israelis provide the best medical care in the Middle East - and do so for Arabs and Israelis alike.
This is about diminishing the Jewish presence, our visibility. The Arabs may not be able to make us disappear from the land, but they are attempting to prevent the rest of the world from fully seeing us. It is another arrow in the quiver of anti-Semitism, directed at the existence of the Jewish people.
To level the playing field, I suggest that the IRC adopt the Red Crystal as its universal symbol. I could live with that. Do you think the Muslims and Christians would?
ALAN B. KATZ
Melville, New York
Sir, - After accepting the new Red Crystal emblem, are we going to start referring to the organization that uses the symbol without the word "cross?"
Copan Ruinas, Guatemala
Sir, - One of the most talked about issues regarding the war in Iraq, that of low troop levels, has never been adequately explained ("Embattled Bush defends policy on Iraq," December 1). Why weren't there enough troops to secure the country after the initial stage of the war? I would like to offer an answer with insights into the methodologies and that have guided the top civilian leadership of the country.
The answer is disturbingly simple.
For over 20 years, Donald Rumsfeld, now the secretary of defense, has single-mindedly pursued a vision of a leaner, faster and more technically advanced military strike force. While be believed his vision for the armed forces was prophetic and correct, he needed a war to prove it.
Thus he overruled his top military advisors, who said they needed significantly more troops, to prove his concept. He had to win the war, and the occupation, with a lower troop count.
I believe Rumsfeld was right about the need for dramatic changes in the military. But his pursuit of this one issue has had catastrophic consequences including the burgeoning of a heavily armed insurgency, the extending the duration of the occupation, and threatening the overall success of the invasion itself.