August 28: Shun the absolute

A belief in globalization and open, free markets does not relieve us of professional economic calculation to learn what is really best for Israel's economic welfare.

letters good 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters good 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Shun the absolute Sir, - Re "Ministry of Defense seeks foreign suppliers" (August 25): While one hopes that the ministry, assisted by our Treasury, is not comparing absolute prices quoted by overseas suppliers to those requested by local Israeli suppliers when seeking bargains abroad, one suspects that this rather primitive comparison is being made. Yet the comparison should be much more scientific, taking into account that the local supplier will pay taxes on his income on goods supplied. Numerous additional sophisticated calculations are needed to evaluate the social benefits of locally purchased goods - providing jobs which pay salaries, which are taxed; payments to national insurance etc.; and the purchasing power of the locally employed. Such calculations are not simple, but that is why we have an army of specialists employed by the Treasury, the Bank of Israel and numerous other government offices. A belief in globalization and open, free markets does not relieve us of professional economic calculation to learn what is really best for Israel's economic welfare. DAVID GOSHEN Kiryat Ono Just deserts? Sir, - Nations, it has been said, get the governments they deserve. In Israel's case, this is obviously true. We have mass demonstrations, marches, strikes, "tent cities" in support of all manner of causes (for example, "Reservists press demand for commission of inquiry into war," August 27). However, for the remedy of the country's fundamental malaise - the lack of a truly representative constituency-based parliament - nothing. If we are prepared to go on tolerating rule by irremovable, self-seeking time-servers, then we get what we deserve. The fault is ours, not theirs. OSCAR DAVIES Jerusalem Negotiate... Sir, - Just as the threat that "'Ahmadinejad would sacrifice half of Iran to wipe out Israel'" (August 25) must be of paramount concern to the Israelis, I am sure it is of concern to the 34 million Iranians who make up that half of Iran's population the president is willing to sacrifice. Another party that must be concerned is the Syrians because they are sure, as the Iranian proxies, to be called on to do the fighting. Ahmadinejad is truly emerging as the "Mad Hatter" of the Middle East. And since threatening the madman is a real waste of time, the proper response by Israel would be to make every effort to open direct negotiations with Syria to settle its dispute with us and come to terms, including a peace treaty. Any wedge between Syria and Iran can only benefit the present situation. Even the Syrians must by now realize that a long-term love affair with Iran will lead to disaster. P. BERMAN Shoham ...with Syria Sir, - I believe it is high time the Israeli leadership responded positively to the messages sent by Syria's president Bashar al-Assad. The man was so articulate in wanting to resume negotiations with the Jewish state. Contrary to Mr. Olmert's belief - that Syria needs to fulfill certain conditions to become eligible as a partner for peace - it is the peace talks and the prospective settlement which will defuse the whole situation and get Syria back to the international community as a peaceful country that doesn't need to ally itself with any other regime or group. Once that settlement is achieved the Lebanese and Palestinians will follow suit, and the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict will be history. This is not a dream or wishful thinking if we remember the golden rule that success begets success. There is an important role waiting for a courageous Israeli leader to play: bringing about permanent and durable peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and starting a strategic partnership and even economic competition between the two peoples in the Holy land ("Playing the Syrian card," August 22). RAMEZ KAMAL Riyadh (Only) peace for peace Sir, - I can't believe that people are still talking land for peace. I mean, there was a time when I used to say that, but that was before I actually understood that we live in a world of consequences, where actions matter. The actions of the Syrians, the Palestinians and the Iranians matter, and anybody who would even suggest giving land for peace is either too foolish to be taken seriously, or taking bribes from our enemies. Either way, they should be ignored at best, and probably removed from office, if for no other reason than to make room for somebody who actually has something useful to contribute. Peace can be achieved only through peace. That's it. Once our enemies resolve to bury the hatchet, literally, we'll have peace. MATT BERMAN Herzliya Fear factor Sir, - While I agree with Gerald Steinberg that "Ken Roth's blood libel" (August 27) is offensive and unfairly sullies Israel's reputation, there may be an unintended deterrent side effect in Human Rights Watch's claim that Israel deliberately kills civilians. By depicting Israel as a frightening bogeyman, Islamist and leftist propagandists are scaring their friends, thereby discouraging future aggression. The fear factor can help keep the peace. DAVID KATCOFF Jericho, Vermont Give us a break! Sir, - Isn't it about time you put something different from the war and its consequences into your Readers' Letters column? Surely there are other subjects you could deal with, and it would help raise morale. For example: On radio's Reshet Bet I recently heard an excellent suggestion for improving English teaching here: Teach some subjects entirely in English. In the 1930s the Philanthropin School in Frankfurt/Main used a similar method very successfully (until the authorities closed down that Jewish school). The teachers knew no German, and so English had to be spoken at all times. HANNAH BRAMSON Haifa Taxing problem Sir, - Eitan Barak's "A will and a way" (Investments Supplement, August 18), which clearly presented the peculiarity of the Israeli income tax code re capital gains where inherited property is concerned, should be circulated throughout the legal profession. There is very little chance of seeing the income tax authorities ever redress this imbalance. Unfortunately, the mention made in the article of the US estates and gift tax is not current. The amount exempt from gift tax for 2006, per person, per year, increased from $11,000 to $12,000, so the gift is taxable from the first $12,001. Estates, per US Tax Code, valued under $2,000,000 are tax-exempt - i.e., the tax starts to apply from the first $2,000,001. Maximum tax rates for the estate decreased to 46%. FRANCES P. ZAHAVI, CPA Beersheba Kosher query Sir, - I generally look forward to reading Ofer Zemach's restaurant reviews. However, there has not been one kosher restaurant review - or one of a restaurant in the Jerusalem area - for months. I'm sure many of your readers keep kosher and would like to see a review of a new kosher restaurant once in a while. With the vast number of eateries that have opened in Jerusalem over the past several months, surely there's something worth reviewing. MELISSA SER Jerusalem Ofer Zemach responds: Indeed, there are many good new kosher restaurants, including in the Jerusalem area, and they have been reviewed. See, for example, the new dairy Cafe 1869 in Jerusalem, reviewed two or three weeks ago, and my review of the trendy new Meat & Wine kosher eatery in Herzliya Pituah. I make an effort to review kosher restaurants along with others. The impression that more nonkosher eateries get written about probably comes from the fact that fewer kosher restaurants are opening, even in the Jerusalem area.