Case of confusion
Sir, - In comparing the US Supreme Court's view of free speech and the military and this week's banner-raising incident during an IDF induction ceremony at the Western Wall, Nathan Lewin appeared to confuse inductees and soldiers ("Is there free speech in the military?" October 28).
The way he described the three cases he cited, the men were all potential soldiers - still civilians, in fact. None had yet been sworn into the military and so the Uniform Code of Military Justice did not apply to them. Once the oath was administered, that status changed.
The IDF soldiers at the ceremony, in contrast, were soldiers in every way. They were being inducted into a prestige battalion.
When I enlisted as a new recruit to the US Navy, these were the first words we heard after taking the oath, from a chief boatswain mate: "OK, swabbies, 10 minutes ago your hearts belonged to your mama, but now your body and soul belong to me. Shape up!" (Statement edited for a family newspaper.)
Ol' familiar devil
Sir, - "If Abbas is really fed up and ready to go, his departure could presage a revolutionary opportunity," said your editorial ("Let Palestinians challenge their leadership," October 28).
With all due respect, your assessment is a disaster waiting to happen. The accepted wisdom is that the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know.
Also you cite the negotiating principle of "Give and take." In the Palestinian universe, the principle too often is "Give and fake."
Sir, - Gershon Baskin and I reside in the same city, Jerusalem, but we must be living in parallel universes. Baskin's claim that "Abbas's popularity is higher than that of any other Palestinian personality" is disingenuous in the extreme ("Abbas is a partner for peace. Is Netanyahu?" October 26).
On October 18, the leading Arabic daily, Al-Sharq al-Awsat, reported on a Jerusalem Media and Communications Center poll showing Abbas's popularity rating having dropped from 17.8 percent in the previous JMCC poll in June down to 12.1. The approval rating for Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has held steady at 14.2 percent. JMCC also found that Abbas and Haniyeh would be running neck-and-neck, with about 16 percent of the vote, if a presidential election were held now.
At a September 29 seminar I attended at the Adenauer Center entitled US Policy Toward the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Prof. Khalil Shikaki, director of the highly reputable Palestinian Survey and Research, did note a slight uptick in Palestinian support for Abbas but attributed that to his increasingly hardline positions currying favor with the Palestinian street; not exactly the winning formula for a putative "peace partner."
If Baskin entered my universe and saw Abbas's 12% popularity rating along with the recent photos and videos of Palestinians throwing shoes, the ultimate insult, at Xed-out portraits of Abbas, he would rethink his blind faith in this leader who is inclining toward immoderate, militant positions in order to remain in power.
Director Israel Office Zionist Organization of America