June 10: Cause for concern...

Can anyone vote for a presidential candidate who can be so easily swayed to speak through both sides of his mouth in the span of 24 hours?

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Cause for concern... Sir, - Can any Jew or democratically inclined individual vote for a presidential candidate who can be so easily swayed to speak through both sides of his mouth in the span of 24 hours? ("Obama backtracks on a united J'lem," June 6.) At the AIPAC policy conference in Washington on June 4, Barack Obama stated: "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." Soon after, Palestine's Mahmoud Abbas furiously told reporters that he totally rejected this statement and that Jerusalem was Palestine's capital. Next day, Obama's campaign sang a different tune to placate the pro-Palestinian vote, saying it "did not rule out Palestinian sovereignty over parts of Jerusalem," and that "Jerusalem was a final-status issue, which means it has to be negotiated between the two parties." Well, yes, obviously the parties will have to negotiate over Jerusalem. But, I ask, how will a president Obama feel about the "secure, recognized and defensible borders" for Israel of which he spoke so ardently at the AIPAC meeting? Will he backtrack again so easily? HARRY GRUNSTEIN Montreal Sir, - In public, in a big setting with lots of TV coverage, Obama says one thing, and then a day later he pretty much takes it back. But he's already gotten the big splash he wanted. Trust is a tough thing to earn, and even tougher to keep... one look at Israel's current prime minister illustrates that. KENNY MYLES Glen Ridge, New Jersey ...and for optimism Sir, - At the AIPAC conference Sen. Obama also spoke about energy independence. I have just returned from a very special trip to Washington and can affirm that members of Congress want to end energy dependence on Arab nations. The price of oil has shattered the myth that the Arab nations are our friends and Congress is eager for true cooperation with Israel, desiring to go even further than the United States-Israel Energy Cooperation Act ("Olmert's address to Congress," May 25). The prospect of a viable electric commercial car is exciting, a golden opportunity for Israeli creativity and entrepreneurship. General Motors has just retired its gas-guzzling SUVs in favor of manufacturing hybrid cars. Israel can be the lynchpin of American independence via its development of electric cars, solar energy for homes and other alternative energy sources. With the US looking to Israeli leadership in these fields, let's go forward into a future independent of the tyrannical Arab control of oil. TOBY WILLIG Jerusalem You wouldn't think it Sir, - This may seem counterintuitive, but from the lessons of history we have learned that "it took president Nixon (a virulent anti-communist and Red-baiter in the 1950s) to go to China"; it took president Clinton (a moderate and centrist Democrat) to end Welfare; and it took prime minister Ariel Sharon (architect of the 1982 invasion of southern Lebanon) to return the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians. Similarly, it may require a warrior and war hero like John McCain to bring the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a close ("America at its best," Editorial, June 6). PETE JOSENHANS Campbell, California Terms of reference Sir, - Re "IDF likely to hit Hamas before Israel accepts cease-fire" (June 8): The government should make a declaration, loud and clear, that it will respond to any rocket fired into its territory by bombing the area from which it was fired within 24 hours; residents of that area should leave, or bear the consequences of their decision to stay. While Defense Minister Barak may be correct in suggesting a "medium-sized military operation" in Gaza, the problem seems to be, then what? Another incursion if the rocket attacks don't stop? A long-term problem requires a long-term solution. YITZ GREENWALD Givatayim Funding birthright Sir, - Cabinet Secretary Ovad Yehezkel would like to quadruple Israel's funding of birthright israel (from our tax payments) while there are people in Israel searching through garbage bins for food and no funding for Israel's schoolchildren to enjoy similar lavish tours of this land - even though they will soon be called to give up several years of their lives defending it ("Cabinet secretary unveils dramatic proposal for 'humbler' Diaspora policy," June 4). Many of the young people who arrive on their free trip to Israel come from affluent homes in North America where they have never bothered to include Israel in their travel plans. In addition, there are reports of an increasing number of non-Jews managing to include themselves in these free trips to Israel ("More Christians said to be joining birthright trips," same date). Despite the rave reviews from those with a vested interest in birthright's success about the benefits to Israel, I believe this to be the cold, hard truth: The main beneficiaries of the enthusiasm drummed up by these trips are the US Jewish communities themselves, where the increasing assimilation and decreasing active Jewish involvement of young people will not endanger the survival of the State of Israel but may well endanger the careers of a multitude of Jewish professionals and leaders in those communities and their institutions. We will gladly continue welcoming all young people who come to visit and explore Israel - but let the funding for such ventures come from their home communities, and not at the expense of our youngsters and needy citizens. HILLEL HURWITZ Ra'anana Poles apart Sir, - Deeply felt thanks for your good article about Irena Sendler ("Pole who saved 2,500 from Warsaw Ghetto also saved their names," May 14). That was fair and constructive reporting! The present generation receives urgently needed information about the atrocities perpetrated on Polish soil by the foreign occupiers of the land during WW2 - but not enough facts by far about the citizens who risked their lives for their Jewish neighbors. With over 6,000 heroes honored by Yad Vashem for saving Jews, Poland stands as number one and way ahead of other countries on that list. Our students who visit the country need to become more knowledgeable about a Poland that does not consist only of Auschwitz and similar places created by occupation and terror, but also of people with a heart for their fellow human beings. Meeting the citizens of this beautiful country and seeing their enormous achievements as a free nation today, shaking their outstretched hands, will aid us in appreciating what the once-largest Jewish community of then 3.5 million considered hospitality. I am for warm friendship and mutual construction of a better future for all peace-loving people. In my view, the Polish government is trying to promote exactly that. Can we do less? HILLEL GOLDBERG Jerusalem Death, the leveler Sir, - The writer of "Last-minute piety" (Letters, June 5), responding to "Tommy Lapid to be buried today in Orthodox ceremony" (June 2), does not appear to understand non-religious Jews. I was brought up in England, and our synagogue was Orthodox. I made aliya 40 years ago and lost my religion, to my father's unhappiness. I keep nothing except to light the candles for my parents. However, I will have an Orthodox funeral and trust that my son will say Kaddish for me. In death most of us return to the fold. JUDY GOLDIN Kiryat Ono