Health Ministry victims
Sir, - For six months now, the Health Ministry has been drumming into our heads the falsehood that correlation implies causation. If everybody who happens to die - for whatever reason - after contracting swine flu is counted as one of its victims, how cynical is it that the ministry now turns around and begs us not to believe the worst about the swine flu vaccine?
Only after it restores sanity and logic to its count of so-called "swine flu victims" should it expect us to believe anything it has to say about the so-called "swine flu vaccine victims" as well. ("Bat Yam death after swine flu shot may scare public off vaccine..." November 9.)
Sir, - Despite the chill of the photo of a Jewish shop after Kristallnacht, warm gratitude is due to David Horovitz for exposing the petulance of Thomas Friedman's recent New York Times column. ("Germany marks 71 years since Kristallnacht" and "An Obama time-out? Unthinkable," November 10).
Might the Post accept 40 annually post-dated checks to continue our half-century as subscribers?
The editor writes: Almost certainly.
Sir, - By insidiously inserting itself into the Lebanese government, where it will most certainly become a controlling factor, Hizbullah, through its aggressive stance against Israel, will inevitably provoke severe retaliation ("Coalition agreement notwithstanding, Hizbullah will continue to hold sway in Lebanon," November 9). Comparing this scenario to the PLO-induced Lebanon tragedy of 1982 seems appropriate. It was then that Yasser Arafat publicly promised to turn Beirut into another Stalingrad .Lebanon should brace itself.
GISH TRUMAN ROBBINS
Desalination: The facts
Sir, - According to "Minister proposes gradual increase in water prices" (November 10), Uzi Landau, the National Infrastructure Minister, acknowledges the necessity of building desalination plants but states that "building such plants and buying the water from them was very expensive" to date. Given the burden already imposed on the Israeli public, it has a right to know now what this means.
According to "Efficient Use of Limited Water Resources," published in 2001 by the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies, the cost of desalinating seawater was around $0.55 per 1,000 liters, and the investment required to build a plant would fall from $3-$3.50 to $2.3-2.8 per 1,000 liters capacity per year. In other words, the largest desalination plant in Israel at Ashkelon, completed in 2003, to produce 100,000 million liters of desalinated water per year, required an investment of circa $350 million. The finance was provided privately, presumably on the basis of an economic evaluation of the price at which the water could be sold to Mekorot. Other private investors were lining up at the same time to build additional plants.
The BESA report estimated that 400,000 million liters of desalinated water would be required to bridge the gap between availability and forecasted needs - all of which would have to be drained from the Kinneret and the aquifers if no action was taken. But only 138,000 million desalinated liters per year have been brought on line in the eight years since.
So what happened? Could it be that Mekorot, supported by its political friends, resented the introduction of private ownership in its water "territory"?
In the meantime the minister's statement that, by mid 2010, desalination will provide 50% more water per year than Lake Kinneret, is misinformation. The Kinneret provides 560,000 million liters per year.
Opposition doesn't hold water
Sir, - Kadima's efforts to repeal the "drought levy," due to its ostensible unfairness to the working and middle classes, is disappointing. Water consumption has already been reduced during the short period that the levy has been in effect. Moreover, the levy is targeted against those who consume more water than average, a group likely composed somewhat disproportionately of upper-middle and high income households.
The water shortage was intensifying throughout Kadima's term leading the government, and the drought levy idea was already percolating within the Water Authority. Now that the new government has made the difficult choice of endorsing a minimally draconian water surtax -- and after the tax has been shown initially to be succeeding -- Kadima proposes to repeal it!
More traffic cops, harsher fines
Educating the public about traffic accidents takes a lot of time ("Transportation minister considers raising driving age from 17 to 19," internet edition). We all know the people who insist that driving at 120 kph. is no problem. Or the ones who say that they can concentrate on the road at the same time they have conversations on their cellular phones.
We need more police out there in unmarked cars giving costly tickets (which will pay for their time) and prison terms for anyone driving after his/her license has been revoked. Plain, simple and effective.
An Ethiopian example
Sir, - It was wonderful to read "Ethiopian students to celebrate Sigd alongside veteran Israelis" (November 10). Rabbi Roni Lottner and his staff at Or Menahem Yeshiva High School seem to be doing everything in such a positive and innovative manner. It behooves the principals of the "semi-private" schools all over Israel to follow suit. The excuse that the new immigrants are not ready to integrate into their schools doesn't stand up anymore.
Sir, - I agree on the need to set up a profiling procedure to screen would-be "olim" ("Time for immigrant profiling," November 8).
From my close contact with one of the organizations which deals with receiving olim, it's clear that the root of the problem is the incentive and motivation that Jewish Agency emissaries have in constantly seeking to increase the numbers of olim. Perhaps this is necessary to justify their existence and to obtain continued funding for their offices.
But as we have seen, many of the new arrivals, notably from the FSU, are attracted to Israel for economic reasons, and have no roots in Judaism or Zionism. Far too many resources are invested in the activities of the Jewish Agency and its subsidiaries in these countries. The system of obtaining certificates required by the Jewish Agency is open to corruption, and in many cases the documents obtained would not pass proper scrutiny.
A proper profiling and screening process, including a clean certificate of behavior from local law enforcement agencies, is a must. And it must be overseen by an independent body which has no vested interest in the number of olim admitted.
Who knew about Holocaust assets?
Sir, - As a CPA practicing over 30 years, I want to know: Where were the auditors since 1948? The banks grew, went on public stock exchanges, and the Big 8, now Big 4, had to have known of these assets ("Israel knew in 1948 it had assets belonging to Holocaust victims," November 8).
The bank audit committees, composed of independent members of the Board of Directors, should have been advised long ago, not to mention the companies' shareholders. This is a moral and financial failure that never should have happened.
JEFFREY D. URBACH