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Sir, - For once I disagree with my favorite columnist, Charles Krauthammer ("None of your business," December 17). He says that to ask questions about the religion of a candidate is like asking about race. I disagree. Race is patent, evident, it is there. Religion, if reduced to a label in similar fashion, is reduced to nothing.
Why should I not want to know what a candidate believes about God, Jesus, Salvation? Will not such beliefs influence his decisions about war and peace, bombing, Israel as a Jewish state? When John Kennedy said he would not take orders from the pope, that sounded great. But in reality, a good Catholic listens to the pope on moral issues. Kennedy did not say - and Romney is not saying - that religion would be put aside in the Oval Office, in the intellectual, spiritual sense - only that officially no one would be judged by his religious label.
I think Huckabee is more honest; he proclaims his beliefs, not just his religious label. When Lieberman, a self-labeled Orthodox Jew, was a vice presidential candidate, people had the right to ask him how his observance of Shabbat would or would not interfere with his duties in office. Separation of church and state is of little value if it means religion is taboo in political discussion, just as religion is not of much value if politics cannot be discussed in the pulpit.
Sir, - Larry Derfner's "Behind the Zion curtain" (December 13) is a most insulting and condescending article. For a long time, Derfner's articles have had common themes - Israel's cause and its defense against Palestinian and Arab warfare are inherently unjust, and Israeli society is cruel and heartless toward those he considers "disadvantaged."
In his latest article, he puts down his fellow citizens because they reject his worldview. That's unacceptable to Derfner, so he insinuates that Israelis are a group of know-nothing yahoos who are blind to his enlightened counsel. He concludes by hoping that "America might be able to protect Israel from itself."
Derfner's articles always bash Israel for something or other. Larry, I challenge you to write a future column about why you chose to live in Israel and why you remain here, despite your seeming dislike of Israel's cause and citizenry.
Sir, - MK Yoram Marciano is lobbying to repeal the anti-smoking laws, claiming it is a matter of human rights ("Labor MK forms pro-smoking lobby in Knesset," December 14). His supporter in this move, MK Moshe Sharoni, would allow restaurant and wedding hall owners to decide for themselves whether their places of business are smoking or non-smoking.
I suggest to these venerable gentlemen that they take their campaign for human rights further. Airlines should decide which of their flights should allow smoking. And don't deny these rights to bus and train operators and theater managers.
Why limit human rights to smoking? Why not permit drivers to travel at any speed they desire? Why not allow farmers to grow and sell cannabis in the open market? Why not let supermarkets sell food beyond the expiration date? All of these matters would affect public health, but why should that worry our MKs? Their concept of human rights is far more important.
MONTY M. ZION
Sir, - The Ethiopian Embassy in Tel Aviv appreciates Caroline Glick's deep understanding of the complexities of the Horn of Africa in general and of Ethiopia's role in fighting Islamic Courts Union and al-Qaida terrorists in Somalia in particular ("Condi's African holiday," December 11).
Furthermore, we also appreciate the writer's exposure of the Eritrean government as a primary sponsor of the al-Qaida-linked ICU, and its massive military and financial assistance and provision of a safe haven to terrorists and their organizations.
However, the Ethiopian Embassy would like to point out that the article omitted one crucial fact and we are afraid readers were given the wrong message. The article states that Ethiopia has rejected the Ethio-Eritrea Boundary Commission's decision. On the contrary, Ethiopia has accepted the decision without any precondition.
The president of the Boundary Commission noted Ethiopia's full commitment to the demarcation process at the March 2006 meeting of the parties in stating, "We have taken note of the fact that Ethiopia has accepted the delimitation decision. At one time there was a qualification of the acceptance of the expression 'in principle' and we understand that it has now been dropped, so it is a complete and unconditional acceptance, so there is no doubt that Ethiopia is willing to move on to the complete demarcation of the boundary and what we are trying to do now is figure out to go about that." This remains Ethiopia's position.
The UN Security Council, in its latest Presidential Statement of November 13, 2007, has also reiterated this by stating that "The Security Council underscores the acceptance without preconditions by both Ethiopia and Eritrea of the final and binding delimitation decision of the EEBC." It goes on to state, "The Security Council calls upon the parties to refrain from relations, to promote stability between them and to lay the foundation for sustainable peace in the region." Suffice to say, Ethiopia noted this as a positive development, while Eritrea rejected it.
Ethiopia believes that the fundamental obligations that Ethiopia and Eritrea undertook under the Algiers Agreement of December 12, 2000 and the Cessation of Hostilities of June 2000 remain to be fulfilled. These fundamental obligations involve ensuring a comprehensive and lasting peace between the two countries, including the demarcation of the border, consistent with the Algiers Agreement and international practice. Ethiopia's overriding objective remains to resolve all disputes with Eritrea without resorting to threat or use of force, the normalization of relations and the establishment of lasting security and peace in the region.
In this context, therefore, it is Eritrea, not Ethiopia that has made implementation of the delimitation decision impossible. We hope that this one critical aspect of the border issue, i.e. the acceptance of the delimitation by Ethiopia, is now more clear.
Ambassador of Ethiopia to Israel
Sir, - In "Stop Red Cross visits to Israeli prisons" (December 18), Yona Baumel makes a very sensible plea for reciprocity in the treatment of prisoners, but Israel will never adopt this policy. Even in the unlikely event that Prime Minister Olmert were to announce the possibility of such a policy, he would quickly withdraw it, just as he withdrew his vow not to negotiate with anyone who didn't recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Perhaps someday, when Israel has strong leadership, Yona Baumel's idea will be realized.
Sir, - A-G Menahem Mazuz's call to fight crime in "Lador takes over from Shendar as state attorney" (December 18) was the most upbeat news in a long time. Mazuz said, "The nation must mobilize."
The question is how.
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