May 21: Views of the visit

The US visit was a failure. You just had to watch the body language between Netanyahu and Barack Obama to see the tension. As a politician, Netanyahu came up zero.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Views of the visit Sir, - In the last elections I voted for Binyamin Netanyahu for two reasons: I felt he could help us get through the worldwide recession better than any other candidate because of the responsible job he did as finance minister; also that with his past experience as PM, he could walk between the raindrops and represent Israel with honor vis-a-vis the American president. It seems I was wrong on both accounts. The first thing he did was put together an open-ended cabinet, the cost of which is yet to be realized; now VAT is planned on fruits and vegetables, which will raise their price. The extra revenue will remain in the vendors' pockets since we don't have enough inspectors to enforce the new rules. The US visit was a failure. You just had to watch the body language between Netanyahu and Barack Obama to see the tension. As a politician, Netanyahu came up zero. Instead of finding a common denominator to help President Obama and Israel, he chose to oppose the president's will even though both men know that a two-state solution is not possible until Hamas is defeated ("Seeing linkage, plainly," Editorial, May 20). PAUL BERMAN Shoham Sir, - Bibi "got it right." The US-Israel relationship has been strengthened and reinforced. Netanyahu reminded the US president, the head of the foreign relations committee and the US Congress not to forget the tremendous concessions Israel has made, without PA reciprocity. Appropriately, he stated that it is now time for the Palestinians to enact confidence-building measures. What did Israelis get for Gush Katif? Rockets in their faces! MOSHE RETINA Jerusalem Sir, - Prime Minister Netanyahu should be applauded for understanding that the role of an Israeli prime minister is to uphold the needs of Israel. President Obama's ideas are not necessarily Israel's viewpoints. The president sees the world from his own perspective. He hardly knows our country - on his visit here, he was not able to see sites which were not on his itinerary. It is very important for him to send his emissaries to really view the country - to see how ghettoized the Jewish population of Hebron is; to see Kiryat Shmona and the Lebanese border, and the Golan Heights, which have protected this tiny land since Israel has held it. Only by actually touring the land of Israel can one form a perspective. I hail Netanyahu for his ability to stand up to pressure from the US, and for his deep understanding that Israel cannot be given away. THELMA SUSSWEIN Jerusalem Mind-wrecking stress... Sir, - It was surprising to read in "Kassam wounds Sderot woman" (May 20) that Tuesday's attack took place "after a lull in rocket fire on Sderot of just over two months." Daily attacks on Sderot and the Western Negev continue unabated - though the mainstream media have downplayed the 210 attacks (a figure confirmed by the IDF spokesman) that have hit the south since the January 18 cease-fire; an average of almost two aerial attacks a day. The result has been an epidemic of mental stress. The Sderot Mental Health Center now treats 5,000 people who have been traumatized by the after-effects of daily missile attacks. Yet the center announced this week that it is closing its doors for lack of funding. NOAM BEDEIN Sderot Media Center Sderot ...body-threatening, too Sir, - Our army bombs the lethal smuggling tunnels in retaliation for "non-lethal" Kassams falling in the South. As I understand it, Israel will refrain from bombing these tunnels that allow the entry of long-range rockets - and future likely nuclear warheads - into Gaza, as long as the Kassams are quiet. Hamas has a good deal going: It stops firing Kassams and, meanwhile, continues smuggling tons of dangerous arms, unimpeded. AVIGDOR BONCHEK Jerusalem Let's hear it for Machal... Sir, - Among the speeches by dignitaries marking Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha'atzma'ut, there was not a single reference to the role of Machal Volunteers from Abroad in the War of Independence. Yet according to David Ben-Gurion, "the Machal forces were the Diaspora's most important contribution to the survival of the State of Israel." In 1993, at the consecration of the Machal Memorial at Sha'ar Hagai, then prime minister and defense minister Yitzhak Rabin said: "You came to us when we needed you most... you gave us not only your experience, but your lives as well. The people of Israel and the State of Israel will never forget this unique contribution by the volunteers of Machal." Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi: "We owe a great deal of Israel's success to the Machal volunteers." The 1948 war was undoubtedly Israel's most fateful war. Approximately 4,400 Machalniks from 56 countries served in 14 branches of the IDF, where they played a pivotal role both in winning the war and in establishing the foundations on which the IDF was founded - ground forces, air force and navy. About 95 percent of the 425 flying crews were Machalniks. They flew the B-17s, the Avia-S199s, the Spitfires, Beaufighters, C-46s, Harvards, Norsemen, etc. In the face of a UN embargo of arms to Israel, these aircrews kept open a vital air supply route for bringing in crucially important fighting equipment. Over 400 Machalniks served in the three Palmach brigades, and over 300 Machalniks in the 7th Brigade. The commander of the Israel Navy was an American Machalnik. Mickey Marcus, an American Machalnik, was in charge of the Burma Road project. Close to 200 Machal medical doctors and nurses manned most of the front-line casualty hospitals; 122 Machalniks were lost. The spirit of volunteering for service in the defense of Israel is a continuing process. About 200 young Diaspora Jews aged 18 to 23, men and women, volunteer each year for 14-and-a-half months of IDF service. A number of them were among the servicemen honored for meritorious service on Yom Ha'atzma'ut. We, the old Machalniks, salute them! SMOKY SIMON Chairman, World Machal Tel Aviv ...and for Gahal Sir, - In the wake of last month's solemn and joyous commemoration days, I would like to bring attention to a special group of people known as Gahal (Giyus Hutz La'aretz). These were the Holocaust survivors who found the energy and strength after liberation to make it to Israel to fight for her independence. My father-in-law, Arie Greenbaum, is one of those brave survivors. He does not want a medal or award - and would not ask for one - but he would like everyone to know about these individuals and what they went through. Born in Cmielow, Poland, he was in Theresienstadt and Buchenwald and was liberated on May 5, 1945. He is a man who is proud to have lived, married and been able to fight for what he believed in, like many other brave Israeli soldiers. Thank you to all Israeli soldiers, but especially to those who fought after surviving the concentration and work camps. STUART B HERRMANN Fair Lawn, New Jersey Shoe-box shuls Sir, - "Kazakhstan and Israel: Good friends and reliable partners" (May 20) featured a photo of the recently constructed synagogue in a remote city (Astana) most of us have never heard of, and yet it is of such extraordinary beauty that one has to ask: Why are synagogues here so nondescript and archictecturally uninspiring? Even Jerusalem's "Great Synagogue" looks like a bomb shelter from the outside and a gaudy Las Vegas casino inside. For a nation as based on religion as we are, our neglect of spiritual religious architecture is a tragedy. We don't have to build cathederals, but we don't have to worship in shoe boxes, either. DAVID AARONS Jerusalem