August 2: Poor Ehud Barak

Is the United States so willing to abandon Israel that it will make Israel abandon its righteous cause?

Poor Ehud Barak
Sir, – I know that entreaties from America can turn a man’s head, but it is absolutely ridiculous for Israel, at the urging of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, to apologize for the raid on the Mavi Marmara (“Barak raises prospect of apology to Turkey,” July 31).
We have seen pictures of what really happened on that ship. The people who were killed wanted to attack the Israelis who boarded. The ship was filled with weaponry. Everyone saw the cargo.
Is the United States so willing to abandon Israel that it will make Israel abandon its righteous cause? How can Barak face his own IDF with the script the US has written and say that Israel should apologize?
Poor Ehud Barak. His very persona is threatened and Israel must find another way of dealing with Turkish hubris and American naïveté.
Sir, – Two articles in your July 31 newspaper really bring home our lack of faith in ourselves.
In “Barak raises prospect of apology to Turkey,” we see our defense minister is again mulling apologizing for the Mavi Marmara affair despite leaked reports that we had legal justification for our action. Barak is worried that members of the IDF might be sued on trips abroad. This is giving in to international blackmail and gives up our right of deterrence.
The second report is “Police won’t let Jews hold march around Old City due to Ramadan.” The march is to mark Rosh Chodesh, but because it is also the start of Ramadan, the authorities don’t want to risk trouble.
The mantra “united Jerusalem” is meaningless if we don’t have the courage of our convictions. Bad enough that Moshe Dayan ceded the Temple Mount to the Muslims – why do we compound this huge mistake by giving in to their threats of violence?
Petah Tikva
All those passports
Sir, – Liat Collins (“The Kiwis and the Sabras,” My Word, July 31) has hit the nail on the head!
From personal experience, I can tell you that New Zealanders are indeed a friendly and helpful people. Yet the conspiracy theories of some of them concerning the number of passports found with the Israeli backpackers following the Christchurch earthquake is to my mind nothing short of paranoia.
As Collins correctly points out, many of us have dual citizenship and carry more than one passport.
My husband and I each have an Israeli and a British passport; we use the latter when travelling abroad, which includes our visits to Australia and New Zealand. And we most certainly are not spies! It is therefore not at all surprising that five or more passports were found with four young Israelis.
Obviously no truism
Sir, – Larry Derfner assumes that in the wake of the horrific attacks in Norway, perpetrated by a radical right-winger, Israeli rightwingers will shut up and leave the country’s leftists alone (“The Breivik effect in Israel and abroad,” Rattling the Cage, July 31).
The Palestinians have been curiously reticent about taming the anti-Israel rhetoric following any of their countless terror attacks on Israel – and Derfner has never said boo!
Sir, – For reasons that escape me, Larry Derfner seems to believe that if you are on the other side of the political divide you are evil, and all of the people who believe as he does are knights in shining armor.
Would that the world were that simple.
Affordable housing...

Sir, – A giant step toward solving the housing problem would start with addressing the issue of absentee foreign ownership, which both diminishes supply and raises costs.
Municipal authorities must enact zoning regulations that thwart the wholesale development of properties built a priori for absentee owners. At the very least, new projects should be designated for mixed use, with a significant percentage of all units to be set aside as affordable housing.
Every residence purchased by a foreign national should be taxed at 50 percent of its purchase price, with the revenues earmarked for affordable housing; this tax could be rebated in decreasing amounts over the course of five years should the buyer make aliya.
And finally, every home owned by a non-Israeli who spends fewer than 180 days a year in Israel should be subject to an annual tax of 10% of its assessed value. In Jerusalem alone the annual revenues would amount to over $265 million, enough to build some 500 units of affordable housing each year just in that city.
This program would have zero opposition among Israeli taxpayers. Moreover, should it trigger a wholesale sell-off by absentee owners, it would cause a steep drop in the price of housing – a drop that would have a domino effect all the way down the line.
J.J. GROSS Jerusalem
Sir, – There already is a solution to demands for affordable housing, as well as free health care, childcare and education. Many can find it by joining a kibbutz.
Maybe it’s time for the kibbutzim to get involved and start proposing solutions. The apparatus is already in place; many demonstrators have shown that they want to implement socialist ideals, and the solution is right under their nose.
JUDY LEV Ra’anana
...and butter!
Sir, – I would be interested to know how opening the dairy market to imported products would help bring prices down for Israeli consumers (“Gov’t seeks to lower dairy product prices by opening market to imports,” July 28).
I purchased a 250-gram tub of Danish butter at my local supermarket for NIS 16.99. If I lived in London I could purchase the same tub for the equivalent of approximately NIS 9. Even taking the extra shipping costs into account, how is it possible to justify the almost 100-percent extra cost?
Real agenda?
Sir, – The tent city protesters want us to believe that they are truly concerned about affordable housing and food. But their actions suggest otherwise (“Right-wing NGO: Protesters refuse to sing ‘Hatikva,’” July 31).
KURT SIMON Jerusalem
It’s how we vote
Sir, – When will people realize that nothing will change in our country unless the electoral system is changed and produces a truly representative government that can actually do something? The protesters would be spending their time far more advantageously if they were to join the pressure for meaningful electoral reform.
Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating for this – now that would really be something to welcome!
Sir, – Housing prices and taxes are too high, but under Israel’s electoral system we practically elect the same people over and over again.
Social justice begins with direct elections and direct responsibility to us by our elected leaders.
Attorney Hassan Jabareen of the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights is not assisting Khaled Abu Arafa, as we stated on July 31 in “High Court could decide ‘within weeks’ if four Hamas leaders can remain in Jerusalem,” but is in fact an amicus curiae, providing the court solely with a neutral expert opinion.