February 16: Syrian security

With Israel in control of the Golan high grounds, its border with Syria is the quietest border this country has patrolled over the past 42 years.

Syrian security
Sir, – Alon Ben-Meir says that “as long as Syria has territorial
claims against Israel, Israel will never be secure on its northern
border” (“Syria must be a top priority,” February 15).
However, just the opposite is true. With Israel in control of the
Golan high grounds, its border with Syria is the quietest border this
country has patrolled over the past 42 years. In addition, it is
well-documented that when Syria was up on the Golan, the Israeli
farmers working the land around the Kinneret below were targeted by
Syrian sniper fire.
Ben-Meir goes on to state that “the prospect of regaining the Golan
Heights will assume national priority over other tactical ties that
Syria has with Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas.” If that is the case, why
haven’t the Syrians ever stated their intention to distance themselves
from terrorists in a peace deal? Perhaps it’s because they have been
too busy building secret nuclear facilities.
No uproar for Afghanistan...
Sir, – It was a throwaway story on Yahoo News and the major papers and
networks: A NATO missile missed its target and killed 12 Afghani
civilians (“NATO rockets miss target, kill 12 Afghan civilians,”
February 15). No calls for emergency sessions of the UN, no Goldstone
reports, no war crimes charges in The Hague. Now imagine if Israel
killed 12 Gazan civilians, by mistake or in the course of a battle. It
would be the lead story in every newspaper and news show in the world.
The US and NATO will not let this “accident” deter them from their
ultimate goal: wiping out the Taliban. Israel can take a lesson.
Highland Park, New Jersey
... or Bil’in
Sir, – Friday’s Jerusalem Post informed us that “in a boost to the
Palestinian protest movement against the West Bank security barrier,
the IDF began laying the groundwork to reroute 1,700 meters of the of
the security fence in Bil’in” (“IDF moving 1,700 meters of the
security fence in Bil’in,” February 12). This was the result of five
years of weekly demonstrations by villagers joined by foreign and
native leftist groups against a security barrier that was erected to
stop suicide bombings that have killed more than 1,000 Israelis in the
last decade. The protests themselves often ended in violence and
injuries to border guards and soldiers.
We cannot help comparing the above with the vociferous threat issued
by Ehud Barak to “use all the might of the combined armed forces of
Israel” against those who attempted to protest the overly harsh
applications of the “building freeze” in Judea and Samaria.
It is both painful and  disheartening to note that the minister of
defense finds it difficult to identify the country’s  real enemies.
Petah Tikva
Settling the wilderness
Sir, – I would like to comment, belatedly, on Tovah Lazaroff’s article
on Pinhas Wallerstein’s retirement (“Time to pass on the baton to a
younger leadership, says Wallerstein, as he takes leave of Yesha
Council,” January 15).
I salute him for what he has accomplished, and agree that the IDF
should not be involved in settler evacuations. If Israelis read the
history of early America, they would see a great similarity with the
settler movement here. It was settlers of every nationality, including
Jews (pioneers) moving westward, against terrible conditions, that
eventually settled America.
Where possible, the US Army protected the covered wagon trains. When
not possible, the settlers had to protect themselves. At almost no
time did settlers have confrontations with the military. Their purpose
was the same – to settle the wilderness.
Full disclosure
Sir, – The fact that the cabinet will be behind the full disclosure
law for NGOs operating in Israel is something to be heralded (“Cabinet
backs bill to register NGOs funded by foreign countries,” February
15). The United States has a Freedom of Information Act making it
imperative that sources of funding be disclosed. It is vital for
Israel to know that the NGOs that operate so freely here use monies
that come from foreign countries.
Democracy in Israel is certainly undermined when NGOs have as their
source of funding money from foreign countries that serve their own
interests. It is high time that all NGOs registered in Israel be
required to acknowledge the source of their funds.
Palin and American Jewry
Sir, – Though I voted for the McCain-Palin ticket in the US
presidential elections, mostly because of their stance on Israel,
Caroline Glick’s idea that American Jews must move to the Right and
leave their traditional Democratic-liberal attitudes for Israel’s sake
is naive and simplistic, at best (“Sarah Palin’s friendship,” February
First of all, Palin was seen by many McCain supporters to be the wrong
choice at the outset, and this certainly had little to do with her
friendship for Israel. In fact, many who had originally planned to
vote for John McCain were so distressed by his choice of Palin that
they either switched to Obama or simply abstained. Second, whether we
in Israel understand it or not, her right-wing positions on many
domestic issues scare most American Jews and are often perceived by
liberals in general and Jews in particular as being an assault on
basic American values like democracy and freedom. Third, as we know
all too well, pre-election rhetoric does not necessarily translate
into real policy after the winner takes office. Fourth, a major split
in American Jewry was revealed in the election. Large segments of
Orthodox Jewish Americans – who, in addition to their traditionally
strong support for Israel, are usually more receptive to politically
conservative attitudes than the Jewish liberal majority – as well as
all types of Jews for whom support for Israel was a major factor, did
vote for McCain-Palin.
Finally, American Jewry has changed in many ways. The older generation
that remembers what the world was like with no State of Israel and who
almost unconditionally supported that state, is dying out. Their
children and grandchildren hold much more detached, critical and even
negative attitudes toward Israel. In this age of post-Zionism and
world hostility, it is indeed comforting to hear Palin’s position on
Israel, and may we be blessed with many more like her. Unfortunately,
however, Palin will have to overcome almost insurmountable obstacles
on the home front before there can be any significant shift in
traditional pro-Democratic party and fiercely liberal US Jewish
Hatzor Haglilit
Shuttle diplomacy
Sir, – George Mitchell’s flying back and forth between Washington,
Arab states and Israel (“Mitchell fails to convince Abbas to drop
J’lem freeze demand,” January 24) recalls the famous quip from when UN
mediator E. L. M. Burns was shuttling the same route: “The Security
Council fiddles while Burns roams.”
Another shuttle story has it that Henry Kissinger flew from Washington
to Arab capitals, occasionally stopping in Israel, after the Yom
Kippur war. On one occasion, meeting in Jerusalem with prime minister
Golda Meir over a cup of coffee, she asked him, “Henry, who are you?”
Kissinger thought for a moment and replied, “First of all, I’m
secretary of state; second, I’m an American; and third, I’m a Jew.”
Meir mulled this over for a while and replied, “That’s okay Henry, but
just know that in Israel we read from right to left.”