letters to the editor 88.
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Sir, - One week before Annapolis, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has added former prime minister and current Labor Party Chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to the Israeli delegation. Does this mean the Annapolis agenda has been "re-Wyered" - despite avowals that Jerusalem will remain undivided, etc., etc.? Are the anticipated and undefined "serious concessions" by Israel set to be based on what Barak, without national consensus, offered so cavalierly at the Wye summit in 1998?
Last time we were saved, paradoxically, by Yasser Arafat's murderous honesty. This time we could be heading for a fatal shock ("Why an ailing Annapolis is a bigger pain for the doctor than the patient," Calev Ben-David, November 19).
MIRIAM L. GAVARIN
Sir, - Most people would see an absurdity in expecting someone to pay for something he could obtain for free. Puzzling, then, that "PA sets preconditions for conference participation" (November 20) is seen as "a surprise move." The PA leaders have become masters at gaining concessions from Israel at zero or minimal cost to themselves. Rather than having to make significant concessions, such as decreasing terror, they are now suggesting that if they just show up at Annapolis, all settlement construction must stop.
Israeli negotiators say we must bolster the PA and offer confidence-building measures. However, with the other side seen as so weak that its Israeli counterpart must bolster it, how will it suddenly be strong enough to implement any negotiated agreement? And what earthly motivation does it have to make concessions when it has learned that it will eventually get a free ride? All sense of urgency has been shown to be on the Israeli side. Where is Israel's gain in these "negotiations"?
Except that the Annapolis focus does give the Israeli negotiators something: It distracts from the Kassams falling on thousands of Israelis; from our high school and university students sitting idle at home; from the myriad investigations our PM is under. And it just may distract from an apparently condemnatory upcoming Winograd Report.
Most worrisome of all, perhaps, is that we are continuing our daily lives here as if this were all part of a normal situation - as normal as the emperor parading down the street in his mythical clothes.
Sir, - To "My hopes for Annapolis," as expressed by Gershon Baskin (November 20), I would like to juxtapose my prayers for its total collapse and, if possible, complete abortion.
Baskin asserts that "Annapolis is not going to be a negotiating forum; everything must be concluded prior to arriving there." Unfortunately, one side, Israel, has already made several risky concessions to the Palestinians by releasing hundreds of terrorist prisoners and supplying weapons to the Palestinian security forces. It has begun the removal of settlement outposts and made verbal commitments concerning its borders, the future of Jerusalem and the recognition of a Palestinian state.
While Baskin was touring Washington with Kadima MKs and four senior Fatah personalities, did he seize the opportunity to ask his Fatah associates what real steps the Palestinian side has taken to show the people of Israel that it is really interested in peace? The day Baskin's op-ed appeared, Israel awoke to the news that a young husband and father had been murdered by Palestinian terrorists ("Israeli killed in W. Bank terror attack," On-Line Edition, November 20).
Baskin's superficiality can lead only to Israel's destruction.
Sir, - I read with great dismay "Cabinet okays release of 441 more prisoners before Annapolis" (November 19). To what lengths will we Israelis go to find favor in the eyes of our Arab neighbors and boost Mahmoud Abbas? I don't think it's our business to boost Abbas. It should be Abbas who is boosting Abbas.
Our leadership needs to start boosting Israelis. PM Olmert and FM Livni can start by laying down conditions ahead of Annapolis - such as the return of our captured and missing soldiers. And what about letting the US know that the success of any peace gathering could depend upon the release of Jonathan Pollard and his relocation to Israel?
S. JONAH PRESSMAN
The 'non-Jewish' Mailer
Sir, - With all due respect to Reuven Goldfarb's effort to recruit Norman Mailer for "Yiddishkeit," the historical record cries out the opposite ("The Jewish Mailer," November 20). Mailer once said that the last thing he wished to be thought of as was "a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn." And, in fact, the predominant element in his life's work was the effort to prove his masculinity through acts of violence - an ethic wholly opposed to the Jewish emphasis on goodness and compassion.
Mailer never showed real concern for any Jewish communal issue. He was a tremendously talented writer whose one Middle East book was not about Israel, which he never cared to visit, but was a detailed exploration of the sexual perversions of pharaonic Egypt. When he wrote, however indirectly, about the Shoah, he did not focus on the victims, but on imagining the childhood and inner feelings of arguably the most monstrous Jew-hater and
murderer of all time.
In terms of Jewish communal values and identity, Mailer's otherwise remarkable literary career was largely a misfortune.
Kudos to these kids
Sir, - After more than five weeks of a national teachers' strike, I would like us to applaud and acknowledge their students.
These kids behave beyond expectation. They can be found during all parts of the day, and in all parts of town, mostly in groups of three or more, relaxed, either serious or laughing, and easy to approach. They tell anyone who asks how much they play soccer, talk, hang out and sleep - and sometimes get bored. There's little sign of gross vandalism, terrorizing of passersby, street violence or brawling. I'm proud of them.
Let's remember this whenever there is contemptuous talk about "young people today" (Letters, November 20).
Unlikely place for love
Sir, - Re "An unlikely love triangle in Bergen Belsen" (November 15) about the film Steal a Pencil for Me: I myself was a prisoner at Auschwitz for about a year and a half, and whatever these concentration camps were, they were certainly not places for romantic love. In fact, I never encountered a woman there except for the German prostitutes who stood at the windows of their buildings watching the prisoners going out to work.
When one was standing in the row to be selected for the gas chambers, or heard the heartbreaking farewells from those who were taken to Birkenau, to the gas; when one was continuously hungry and feeling lonely and abandoned, one would not think of romance.
Please don't misunderstand me: I am glad that the Pollaks were very lucky and survived the war. The film is probably very good. I also got an invitation to see it, but I preferred not to.
Sir, - I was still laughing after reading Pamela Druckerman on American nostalgia ("'Tis the season for expatriates to pine," November 20). I too went through this when my children lived at home and, yes, it was hard to fit a whole turkey into a tiny oven - but I managed somehow. My memories are of bringing canned pumpkin back from the US. Even today I bring boxed sets of TV series I can't get here (yet).
Just as many Russians and Moroccans miss things from their countries of origin, I feel no shame in wanting a bit here of what I had there. And I still miss the parades on Thanksgiving morning.
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