January 15: Core question

Many presume that Israel will cede, shut down, invite in, give back and share. I guess that sounds reasonable. But what would Israel receive in return?

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Core question Sir, - "Israel and the Palestinian Authority are scheduled to formally begin negotiations on the core issues - Jerusalem, settlements, refugees, borders, security and water resources" ("Core issue talks to begin today," January 14). Many presume that Israel will - taking these issues in turn - cede, shut down, invite in, give back and share. I guess that sounds reasonable in a negotiation. But what would Israel receive in return? It's unclear. PAUL GREENBERG Brookline, Massachusetts Over the rainbow Sir, - How telling that President Bush was welcomed with the song "Over the Rainbow" from the film The Wizard of Oz! Olmert is a tin man; Barak, a cowardly lion; Tzipi looks like the scarecrow. Condi Rice has become the wicked witch of the West, and Bush is the little man behind the curtain pulling ropes. Bibi wants the Judy Garland role and Lieberman to be his Toto, while our Munchkins of the Left skip along the Yellow Brick Road toward the Emerald City of Annapolis (or is it Geneva?). The most important thing for the president to remember is that when he steps off the plane in the Middle East, he is not in Kansas anymore ("Defense officials: Olmert is delaying outpost plan," January 14). JOSEF GILBOA Jaffa Jerusalem, jointly Sir, - In "A response to Ronald Lauder" (January 13) Shlomo Avineri failed to note the crucial distinction between the "status of Jerusalem" as it takes shape in today's political situation and the other, hypothetical, instances he enumerates in developing his argumentum ad absurdum. Issues of state and religion, status of the Arab minority, even "Who is a Jew?" (for purposes of the government of Israel) and going to war are clearly decisions to be dealt with by the citizens of Israel, who are affected by them. As Prof. Aveneri well knows, long before the modern sovereign Jewish state of Israel came into existence, the overwhelming majority of Jews worldwide who identified as such believed on moral, historical and religious grounds that Jerusalem was "theirs," at least in the sense that they had the right to live there, pray there and be buried there in peace. For the last 40 years Jews have enjoyed those rights legitimately - a position that could be defended on the basis of international law. Today, there is reason to fear that Ehud Olmert (without even a national referendum) might commit his government to surrendering those rights by forfeiting territory. In the past when Jerusalem fell to Romans, Mamelukes or Turks, the Jewish people would wait patiently until "the rage passed." Today, however, should a sovereign Jewish state declare for the record that it relinquishes present rights over Jerusalem and the Temple Mount and recognizes the claims of other political entities, it is doing something unprecedented and irrevocable precisely because it is the sovereign Jewish state in the historic land of Israel. Normatively speaking, Ronald Lauder's question is quite in place. Does any government of Israel, sovereign as it may be, have the moral right to give away, without consultation, "property" it owns jointly with Jews worldwide? The argument that it is necessary to relinquish territory in order to prevent further bloodshed has been shown to be specious by the Sharon experiment in Gaza. SHUBERT SPERO Jerusalem Sir, - Although Prof. Avineri's scholarship and analytical ability are well deserving of respect, his arguments in this piece were less than convincing. He fails to appreciate the scope and nature of the linkage, and utter interdependence, between "sovereign" Israel and world Jewry. This relationship, uniquely based on religion, peoplehood and history, defies Avineri's attempts to confine it within rigid boundaries - especially when the issue is the future of a Jerusalem whose ties to the Jewish people go back 3,000 years and not merely to Israel's victory in 1967. Avineri raised some cogent questions, but none so unanswerable as the one raised by Jewish citizens of the sovereign State of Israel who are not permitted to pray on the Temple Mount - thus defining Israel as the only democracy in the world that limits the freedom of worship of many of its citizens. ZEV CHAMUDOT Petah Tikva Morally mandated Sir, - Your reporter's description of Rabbis for Human Rights as "left-wing" was simply false ("Rabbis for Human Rights joins petition against 'hijacking' of Durban II," January 11). He mentioned that RHR is trans-denominational. In addition, its membership is very eclectic, representing the whole political spectrum. By what standard are RHR's educational programs in Israeli schools, its police and officer training courses, its yeshiva for university students, its work with the poor and with foreign workers judged to be left-wing activities? Human rights are universal, not subject to labels. RHR does not consider work in human rights to be politically motivated, rather morally mandated. RABBI DAVID FORMAN Founding Chairman Rabbis for Human Rights Jerusalem Brutal, catastrophic Sir, - Ten years ago I joined the Israeli university education system. Before that I had been aware, throughout my academic life in South Africa and as a regular student and researcher in Britain, of its excellent standard, boasting, even in my field within the humanities, fine international scholars such as Dorothea Krook, Harry Daleski and Ruth Nevo. The erosion of respect for this precious resource by recent governments, together with the calculated destructive contempt displayed especially by this present prime minister and treasury, not only for academics but for the young men and women whom they teach, is a catastrophe for the future of tertiary education in this country. No sane academic from abroad, either young and promising or older and well-established, can now think of coming anywhere near a country with such "legislators," who demonstrate so brutally stupid and short-sighted a vision of the kind of university (non)education to which they expect academics in his country now to conform ("Labor Court goes down to the wire on university strike," January 14). PROF. MARTIN ORKIN University of Haifa Haifa 'Ms.'s hint Sir, - Re "'Ms.' magazine's rejection of advertisement featuring Israeli women causes furor" (January 13): Ms. may indeed have rejected, for anti-Semitic reasons, the American Jewish Committee's ad. However, Ms.'s objection - that of the three women featured, two are from the same political party - is actually an understatement of the situation. Supreme Court President Beinisch, Knesset Speaker Itzik, and Foreign Minister Livni, though all worthy candidates, are nonetheless all highest-ranking state officials. Surely it is possible to choose a more diverse representation from among the many Israeli "women of extraordinary accomplishment" who are agents of significant, positive change? Otherwise, we shall have to believe that political power is the only thing that really counts as extraordinary accomplishment (for man or woman) in Israel. MIRIAM L. GAVARIN Jerusalem Streets apart Sir, - There is no such street as "Shlush" St. in Tel Aviv. There is, however, a Chelouche St., intersecting with Eilat St. It is named for the member of a prominent family which helped found Neveh Tzedek. I know this as I worked for his grandson, Aaron Chelouche, who was dean of students at Tel Aviv University in the 1980s ("Conservative Movement hopes to build Tel Aviv cultural center," January 14). REIDA MISHORY-ISSEROFF Moshav Olesh