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Sir, - Re "Teachers begin wide-scale strike" (October 10): It would be hugely in the public interest if the teachers' dispute were submitted to voluntary mediation, followed by arbitration if mediation failed. The obvious benefit: Teachers and school-kids could carry on with their programs, in the knowledge that the issues were receiving close attention.
As both sides have valid points of view, both should welcome the intervention of a neutral arbitrator who would weigh their arguments in conditions where, hopefully, less heat and more light would be generated. An agreement both parties could live with, even if not considered ideal by either party, would obviously be better than an agreement arrived at under coercion of a strike.
Neither party need fear it won't be treated fairly, as each side would choose its mediator or arbitrator; only if the two arbitrators could not arrive at a solution would they submit the decision to a third umpire satisfactory to both parties. The choice of mediators or arbitrators need not be confined to Israelis.
The idea is not novel. Compulsory arbitration before a strike affecting public services can take place has been successfully adopted in other countries (see http://topical-comments.tripod.com/id12.html)
Sir, - Ray Hanania, I salute you: For a Palestinian columnist to come out with a plea for peace with two states is a real accomplishment! ("Take a chance on peace, Mr. Abbas," October 10.) It shows us that there is hope. Now we, the Israelis, must get behind our prime minister and prove that the vast majority of us do want peace, with a two-state solution, no matter how difficult it may be to swallow.
Now is the time! Olmert does have someone to talk to! And it is up to Abbas to prove it.
Dreamer with open eyes
Sir, - Michael Freund's optimistic call to revitalize the Zionist dream was refreshing in its realism ("Time to recharge our batteries," October 10). Obviously, Freund does not believe that territorial concessions will bring real peace, as it never has. He is also very proud of Israeli democracy.
Contrast those facts with the dreams that fail, the delusions of the fantasists. Think of the violence after Oslo, after Gaza, after the pullout from Lebanon, and the growing menace from Egypt. Think of the sacrifices in Iraq and Afghanistan, and no stable democracy yet.
I like guys like Michael Freund, because they know how to dream with their eyes open.
You'd give up...
Sir, - More mind-boggling than Ehud Olmert's likelihood of coming out and saying he is ready to divide Jerusalem is that four million citizens who I believe strongly disagree don't switch off their televisions and stream into the streets in one massive demonstration to shout "Enough!"
As a nation we're still as passive and docile as when we lived dispersed among our enemies. Now that's frightening.
M.M. VAN ZUIDEN
...the divine spark?
Sir, - If PM Olmert really believes that the partition of Jerusalem, inter alia, will bring peace to Israel, he has become a victim of his own hubris and obsequiousness. No nation on earth would consider yielding the embodiment of its soul - for to do so would be seen as substantiating the Palestinian claim that Israel has no historical right to any part of Jerusalem (as Yasser Arafat intoned to president Clinton at Camp David in 2000). Israel without Jerusalem would be Israel without the divine spark.
It is irrelevant that the Palestinians ask for only half of Jerusalem, inasmuch as the Jews' rights, cemeteries and holy places have never been respected under anyone else's jurisdiction. It is quite likely that the Palestinian plan for the staged destruction of Israel will begin with the staged annexation of Jerusalem.
Gaza provides us with valuable insight into what awaits a dejudaized Jerusalem: the expulsion of all Jews; the destruction of all synagogues; the removal of all evidence that Jews ever lived there. It has already started on the Temple Mount, Judaism's most sacred site, with the destruction of artifacts dating back thousands of years.
As a righteous man is reputed to have told Mephistopheles, "You may take my body, and you may even cut out my heart, but you can never have my soul" ("Mind-boggling," Letters, October 10).
ALAN B. KATZ
Melville, New York
The writer is author of 'Fighting Back - Letters from the Diaspora' (2007) about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Sir, - Accountant-General Yaron Zelekha and the state comptroller have much to say about Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's involvement in the sale of the government's holdings in Bank Leumi. A full-scale police investigation is now in process ("PM tried to buy me off, Zelekha charges," October 10).
Regardless of the outcome of these proceedings, it should not be forgotten that numerous government, Jewish Agency and other public bodies have been sold in the framework of "privatization," and in many cases large assets have been disposed of at prices which justify in-depth investigation.
I know of one case where, subsequent to the sale, the buyers were delighted to discover that the seller had been unaware of many additional properties owned that would have entitled the seller to a much higher price.
What we have to learn from selling our national assets is that neither politicians nor government officials should be allowed sole management of the sale of these assets. Independent public committees, duly assisted by well-qualified professionals, should be brought in.
The accountant-general and state comptroller would be well-advised to devote some of their energies to examining, in depth, transactions covering past sales of national assets. They will learn a lot - and get plenty of press coverage and public support for their efforts.
Be fruitful & multiply
Sir, - I have an idea which can increase the number of Jewish people in Israel and the world.
Defined as Jewish is every person with a Jewish mother. Probably this is because everybody can be sure of maternity. Of paternity, no one can be 100-percent sure. But in our day, with DNA testing, fatherhood can surely be verified.