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Sir, - The Histadrut striking at the height of the tourist season is nothing less than blackmail. As you report, it will cause enormous financial damage to the country as well as inconvenience to tourists. Surely at a time when we are surrounded by enemies out to destroy us there ought to be a law against acts of internal sabotage ("Histadrut calls general strike after talks collapse," July 24).
Sir, - The 1% wage hike is totally unrealistic. The economy is strong and could afford 5%. The Histadrut, on the other hand, will cause terrible harm to this robust economy by disrupting air traffic and postal services, and it will endanger health by shutting hospital services. Neither side is behaving in a responsible manner.
Too bad the government will not step in and prohibit strikes by unions that affect vital services. But the quid pro quo is giving them an offer they can deal with, instead of a penny or two to be swallowed up by taxes.
Sir, - Perhaps some of the NIS 800m. per day lost as a result of the strike could be added to the suggested 1% salary increase and so avoid an action that will cripple tourism and many sectors of the economy?
This sum should be an incentive for a compromise.
Boost from Blair
Sir, - The foreign minister is quite correct ("Blair could 'create a breakthrough,' Livni says," July 24). Tony Blair's attention to governance and to building effective institutions will attract the investment of millions in creating a quality of life which has been lacking from the first day Yasser Arafat arrived to lead the PA.
The burning problem all along has been to get the PA economy working and end a situation in which the only way to make a living is to belong to the security forces or an independent militia engaging in well-paid smuggling of arms and explosives or carrying out attacks on Israel.
There are many unemployed, skilled workers in the PA who because of the complete lack of development cannot put their skills to any positive use and suffer extreme poverty.
One hopes Blair will bring about supervision of the use of Quartet funds so they are directed to real development and not invested in armaments or diverted into private pockets.
Finally, if Hamas begins investing in the Palestinian people instead of war, they too will get a hearing.
Sir, - The worst possible mistake a person afflicted with cancer could do is ignore the disease. The results would be devastating. Well, Hamas is Israel's cancer and, difficult as it may be, if our leadership's approach does not change and we ignore this organization in the hope that it will disappear, we could find ourselves in a life-or-death situation. The very least we can do is use the services of Tony Blair to sound Hamas out and determine whether or not there is any basis for optimism in our struggle to find a way back to the peace table.
A friend of mine who underwent cancer treatment told me how hard it was and how much he suffered during treatment. The results were good, however, and the prognosis is excellent.
I truly believe that in the long run it is worth a try to engage Hamas in dialogue before more drastic action is taken ("British Lords' report: EU should avoid 'undesirably rigid' approach toward Hamas," July 24).
Mothers of the world unite
Sir, - How much sense does it make to send an envoy who has no power to do anything? ("The believer," Anshel Pfeffer, July 24. ) To achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East, arrange for dialogues with mothers.
Mothers everywhere speak a universal language. We want the best for our children and loved ones. We know and live the words of peace. We can help the world realize that peace is good for business, profitable for all. We need to change perspectives, enable others to realize that a single human life is more important than a piece of land or an ideology.
Look at the Crusades. How many lives were lost for the sake of Christianity? I suppose it is an excellent source of birth control. For it is generally men and women of childbearing age who die fighting wars. Surely there must be a better way!
Sir, - In "What's bugging Maj.-Gen Elazar Stern?" Anshel Pfeffer states: "But the communities now making out of proportion contributions to the army elite and to the rows in the military cemeteries have changed."
As long as these "communities" were left-leaning and largely devoid of Jewish content, no threat was felt by the socialist leadership. After socialism became bankrupt, along with the relative demise of the kibbutzim, the void was filled by youth with traditional and Zionist values. Why this should be considered a danger reflects the current thinking of some of our leaders.
If the IDF must legislate against draft-dodging, we are in a more serious situation than Gen. Stern is admitting to. The problem is not that the center of idealistic youth has shifted. It is that the IDF has not grown with the times and matched the idealism of the youth.
Unfortunately, former military leaders feel free to switch Zionist values and goals in order to save their political hides. It has become the norm to utilize the IDF for purely political objectives. If our idealistic youth find this objectionable, the blame lies with our political system, not with the youth.
Sir, - As a former high school English teacher in Beersheba and Dimona eight years ago, I noticed that an inordinate number of my students didn't want to serve in the military - tell the army you're gay or do drugs was the modus operandi. After the second intifada started there was an exponential increase in those not wanting to serve.
A look at our society shows why this is a logical choice for many. A lot of Israeli parents are too permissive and do not instill any sense of discipline or respect for others in their children. Why would these kids want to give up their freedom and have to do what someone tells them to for three years?
Secondly, kids raised in homes with financial security and who matriculate from high school see hope for their futures and army service as a means to an end. But many in rural areas of the country were born poor and know what their future holds. As the principal in one high school where I worked told me, "Israel will always need truck drivers." Why would these Israelis want to serve? What is the country going to do for them?
If Syria ever attacked Israel, these 18-year-olds would run to the nearest enlistment center to fight for the survival of the state. But they don't see the intifada or Hizbullah as a direct threat to the existence of the state. So why should they risk their lives?
Potter, with piety
Sir, - My son, 14, preordered the last Harry Potter, too. But before Shabbat he called to ask the Jerusalem store if they would receive the volumes before Shabbat, or during. When he was told the latter, he picked up his long-awaited copy three hours after Shabbat ended - the time it would have taken to obtain it without Shabbat violation. He also decided not to read it on the Ninth of Av. ("Wild about Harry," Letters, July 23.)
M.M. VAN ZUIDEN
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