Letters to the editor, December 19

PA doesn't get it Sir, - Enough of blaming everyone but Fatah for their election difficulties. Yossi Beilin pins Fatah's problems on Prime Minister Sharon ("Beilin blames Sharon for Hamas's victory," December 18), while Saeb Erekat and Nabil Abu Rudaineh would like to blame the US Congress and President Bush ("PA denounces House threat to cut financial aid," December 18). In a democracy, the people vote on the issues that they believe are most important to them. Hamas ran on an anti-corruption ticket as much as an anti-Israel ticket. The PA, Arafat and his successors all bilked the Palestinians of millions of dollars provided by Israel and many donor nations. Still, the people live in poverty that worsens daily. The PA provides words and slogans; Hamas provides an alternative. Rather than a vote for Hamas, this was a vote against the corruption of the PA. The difficulty everyone must face now is that the PA just doesn't get it. ALAN SALMANSON Jerusalem Sir, - If it wasn't for the deadly aims of Palestinian movements, I would have suggested aspiring comedians, learning to keep a straight face when saying something hilarious, apprentice themselves to such groups. Here, for example, is Saeb Erekat, a chief PA negotiator, rejecting the threat of the US House of Representatives to cut off financial aid to the Palestinians if Hamas is permitted to participate in the upcoming PA elections. "Everyone should respect the democratic choice of the Palestinian people," he said, presumably with a straight face. Meanwhile, pictures of armed Fatah thugs carting off PA Elections Commission computers seemed to belie that "universal respect" Erekat demands. And there is the PA's own Web site claiming Israel's new heritage center at the Western Wall plaza might help foreign visitors "into believing Jerusalem is a historical place of the Jews," ("Palestinians slam new Visitors' Center at Western Wall," December 18). Must have been tough to write that one up between the howls of laughter. LEN WOLFISH Jerusalem Let Hamas run Sir, - I think that AIPAC is wasting its energy and goodwill getting Congress to oppose Hamas's participation in the Palestinian elections ("US, Israel: We won't interfere in PA vote," December 18). That goes for Israel as well. Hamas participation in the elections may be the best thing to have happened since Prime Minister Sharon saw the light. He said: "What I see from here [as prime minister] is not what I saw from there [as someone who had no responsibility for Israel's future]." Sharon was able to remove settlements that Yitzhak Rabin could only dream about. By the same token PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas cannot do anything that is opposed by Hamas and the armed gangs. His reelection would do Israel no good. His promises are worthless. Only when Hamas has the responsibility of government will it deal constructively with Israel. ERIC ZORNBERG Jerusalem Not all Arabs Sir, - While it may be true that some "Arabs want democracy, too," (December 16) one has to wonder what kind of democracy the Palestinian Arabs desire. The Post, in the above-mentioned editorial, claimed that Palestinians "are hardly in the mood for corrupt and brutal dictators," yet those same Palestinians gave their enthusiastic support to Hamas in recent municipal elections. Given Hamas's track record in its "foreign policy," it's hard to make the case that the Palestinians are not interested in brutal leaders. I would submit that it's not democracy that the Palestinians want. Rather all indications are that the democratic process is simply a means to the ends pursued by Hamas: the end of corrupt rule by Fatah and the end of Israel. If Hamas does come to power, can anyone really see it pursuing Western style of democracy? Palestinians know this will not happen, but they are supporting Hamas anyway. Not all Arabs, it seems, want democracy. Leslie Winstock Toronto Lost logic Sir, - Could somebody please explain the logic in which our prison system gives free board and lodging to Marwan Barghouti, a convicted terrorist, so that he can continue plotting with his cohorts who are not yet in jail ("Barghouti urged to halt bid for 'bloodless coup,'" December 16)? It makes about as much sense as our response to rocket attacks when we fire back at empty fields, presumably on the basis that the fields are to blame. SYDNEY DAVIS Jerusalem Sir, - What possible justification can the Israeli government provide for allowing Marwan Barghouti to play an active political role from his prison? NAFTALI WAGSCHAL Brooklyn Them or us Sir, - The enormity of the terrible attack ("Father of five killed in Hebron Hills ambush," December 18) is not only its effect on the lives of the victim's family members and the community of Beit Hagai. This attack was calculated to weaken our resolve through pain. It made us all more aware that our lives are at risk in every daily activity we undertake: Walking, driving, shopping or praying, we are subject to attack. We have been trying and searching for a way to live in peace. It has not worked. The current government has been unwilling or unable to deal with our enemies. The capacity to be outraged is being eroded. We must now understand it is them or us. This is the strategic decision we have to make. AARON SWIRSKI Netanya 20 years Sir, - If Prime Minister Sharon's policies are right today, then was he wrong for the past 20 years? When Begin negotiated the withdrawal from Sinai, the main opposition was from Sharon. When Shamir began peace talks in Madrid, the main opponent was Sharon. Likewise, when Rabin and Peres floated the idea of withdrawals for peace, and when Netanyahu reached an accord on Hebron, and when Barak made his peace bid, the main torpedo was Sharon. When Amram Mitzna suggested withdrawals from Gaza these were dismissed out of hand by, you guessed it, Sharon. If he is right today then Sharon must be to blame for the loss of 20 years and the terrible waste of life, resources and opportunities that went with them. One may not agree with Netanyahu or Peres but one can only admire their consistency. Can the same be said of Sharon? JOSHUA ROWE Manchester Who's on third? Sir, - So many politicians have bolted political parties that the layman needs a scorecard to figure out where each is now found. Abbot and Costello created the famous comedy routine "Who's on first?" Israeli observers of the political scene can no engage in their own version. I plan to take the "super glue" approach in voting in the upcoming elections. I'll vote for the party in which no candidate has defected in the hopes of protecting his parliamentary seat - if I can find one. The real problem in trying to figure out who's on first is that the question, by now, is who's on third? LARRY LEFKOWITZ Jerusalem What counts? Sir, - Eric Yoffie, comparing the Orthodox movement with Reform, quibbles with figures about whose convention had the larger attendance ("Stop the bashing," December 15). He should rather ponder how many Jewish grandchildren Reform's members, nation wide, will produce in comparison with the Orthodox. FRED GOTTLIEB Jerusalem David Dery's daring do Sir, - "Chasing windmills" (December 15) carried a message of value in this age of excessive pragmatism. The Don Quixotes dare to enact their sense of values in the face of ridicule and designed misunderstanding. I hope David Dery has educated a generation that will dare to act on principles and values and put us back on a track of truth and trust. RIVKA KURS Netanya Vested interest Sir, - Likud MK Gilad Erdan, chairman of the Subcommittee for the War on Traffic Accidents, has succeeded in requiring the war's "soldiers" to wear a uniform when on the "front lines" ("Reflective vest mandatory in vehicles from Jan. 1," December 18). While this may seem like a bright suggestion, especially for the companies who manufacture the safety vests, I would suggest it's an errant shot in the war. It's akin to blaming the (potential) victim. Instead of making drivers pay for vests that they may never use - given that a relatively small number of people actually exit their cars on intercity roads - why not have drivers contribute the cost of the vest to a fund used to hire more traffic police, or to install cameras that would nab speeders when cops aren't around? If drivers were forced to slow down, they'd be less likely to endanger anyone who has exited his vehicle. LAUREN WEINGARTEN Netanya Seeds of pain Sir, - I feel David Wiseman's pain ("Dutch team and Dutch coach left short-changed," December 14) but the formula FIFA used in determining seedings took into account the past two World Cups. Although Spain has been a perennial underacheiver, the Dutch were nowhere to be found in South Korea back in 2002. However, the Dutch were not the only ones to get a tough draw. The US, which made it into the quarterfinals four years ago and won its qualifying group for this World Cup over rival Mexico - a team it also beat at the 2002 tournament - did not get better treatment. Mexico was seeded because the US finished a dismal 32nd overall in the 1998 World Cup. JOSHUA HALICKMAN Jerusalem