March 10: Releasing Pollard

A positive PR suggestion: The speaker of the Knesset should start each daily session with the number of days Pollard has been in prison.

Letters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Letters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )
Releasing Pollard
Sir, – I spent a difficult afternoon listening to Israeli members of Knesset speaking out against the continued incarceration of Jonathan Pollard (“MKs across political spectrum call for Pollard’s release,” March 7.) Speakers reminded listeners that Pollard never spied on the US, nor did Israel instruct him to do so. The information he imparted was material he believed should have been passed on to Israel because it had a right to know.
I suppose Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu does not have the diplomatic gall to ask US President Barack Obama, as they face TV cameras when they meet soon, whether he can publicly say that the US has never spied on Israel. It would be a fair question since it is no secret that the multi-storied US Embassy in Tel Aviv houses dozens, if not scores, of intelligence officers. Obviously, all these guys are not handling visa or green card applications.
A positive PR suggestion: The speaker of the Knesset should start each daily session with the number of days Pollard has been in prison.
Paying the price...
Sir, – I am one of the very many who try so hard to paint a more balanced image of this very special country. There is the rough and there is the smooth.
Isi Leibler (“Israel-bashing in Israeli movies,” Candidly Speaking, March 7) is so right to point out how subjective the films 5 Broken Cameras and The Gatekeepers are. Yes, they are well made and worthy of Oscar nominations, but not for their content.
With friends like these, as the saying goes, who needs enemies? And, as Leibler rightly asks, why are we paying for this?
Sir, – Kudos to Aaron Katsman for “Locusts are a sign: Let us be free” (Your Investments, March 7). He hits the nail on the head.
The average Israeli is oppressed with a myriad of taxes, and then the government spends the money with complete disregard as to where it came from in the first place.
Too bad Katsman didn’t run for Knesset. We could use more people like him telling it like it is.
LAURIE MORRIS Tel Aviv A board’s role Sir, – In comparison with recent Swiss legislation, your editorial criticizing the lack of control over executive compensation in Israel (“Fat-cat salaries,” March 7) is very much to the point.
The problem is rampant throughout the world. However, attempting to directly control top executive salaries via legislation is unlikely to be successful.
There are numerous ways around such efforts, as compensation can take many forms, such as stock options, bonuses and very expensive perks.
The crux of the matter is the lack of control over the board of directors.
In theory, a board is supposed to represent the shareholders and look after their interests. In fact, it does not. There are regular elections to a board, when shareholders are asked to vote.
As a shareholder in many companies I have never bothered to vote because there has never been a choice. One can vote for the candidates preselected by management or protest by withholding his vote. What a choice.
If we want to exercise control over executive compensation, as indeed we should, we first must make elections to boards of directors meaningful. First, there should always be at least twice as many names on the list of candidates as there are places available on the board. Second, any shareholder should be able to stand for election, provided she or he has the approval of a minimum number of registered shareholders. Finally, any compensation package suggested by the board should have to be approved by a majority vote of the shareholders.
As the main function of a board is to select the CEO and set the salary and other remunerations defined in his contract, this would achieve the control presently lacking. Reducing the compensation paid to the executive suite would increase the payout available to shareholders.
Critics of such legislation would complain that a company paying lower salaries to its executives would attract a lower quality of talent, and thus not benefit shareholders in the longrun.
However, studies have shown that there is no correlation between high salaries and company success. Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer and arguably one of the world’s most successful companies, has much lower salaries in the executive suite than thousands of companies that have stiffed their shareholders.
City Group is a case in point.
When City Group collapsed, shareholders lost 99% of their investment, but the disgraced CEO, who presided knowingly over the fiasco, walked away with a $20 million “golden parachute.”
Legislation should be directed at modifying the legal structure of a company’s electoral system, not mandating specific salary levels for the CEO.
STEPHEN COHEN Ma’aleh Adumim
Contrasting replies
Sir, – US Secretary of State John Kerry’s rebuke of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the latter’s verbal attacks on Israel (“Kerry calls Erdogan’s labeling of Zionism as crime against humanity ‘objectionable,’” March 3) stands in sharp contrast to US President Barack Obama’s long-established indifference to them.
In the three months prior to Obama’s speeches in Turkey in early April 2009, Jewish life was under renewed assault throughout Europe – and nowhere more so than in Turkey, which Obama chose for the culmination of his grand tour of the old continent.
Turkey was the scene of the fiercest anti-Israel and anti- Semitic agitation in Europe, extending from streets to schools, newspapers and TV stations – for the very good reason that it was encouraged by Erdogan, who had declared that “Israelis know very well how to kill” and “Jews control the [Turkish] media.” But nary a word about this little unpleasantness crept into Obama’s speeches to Turkish parliamentarians and students.
Rather, they were full of his usual calls for respect for Islam plus assurances that America was not and never would be at war with it.
Since then, the bellicose Turkish prime minister has become Obama’s favorite foreign politician, the recipient of special privileges to disregard America’s sanctions against Iran (by trading Turkish gold for Iranian gas), and reliably reported to be on the phone with Obama more frequently than any other foreign leader.
In this instance, at least, Kerry has followed the advice not of Obama but of Obama’s predecessor.
On November 19, 2003, then-president George W. Bush, speaking at Whitehall Palace, London, said: “Europe’s leaders – and all leaders – should strongly oppose ant-Semitism, which poisons public debates over the future of the Middle East.”
Humility, sincerity
Sir, – Many reporters, photographers, columnists and readers have weighed in about the recent events at the Kotel spurred by the Women of the Wall. Though terms such as democracy, equality and rights have been used, most Jews do not want the Western Wall to become the site of protests or fights.
Each visitor should be able to convey dignified respect or pray there as he or she deems fit, in a safely designated place. If anyone wants to be photographed to achieve a specific aim it is that individual’s choice. Should there be males who choose to wear feminine apparel, fairness would decree that this is their prerogative.
Will the day ever arrive when everyone who comes to the remaining tiny fraction of our once-great platform on the Temple Mount do so humbly and sincerely?