October 13: Friends, Romans

It appears there are both outer and inner impediments to the recognition of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.

Friends, Romans
Sir, – It appears there are both outer and inner impediments to the recognition of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. The refusal of the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state at least puts the crux of the matter on the table (“PM offers new freeze for recognition of Jewish state,” October 12).
More perplexing and problematic is what has happened to Labor, when they call upon a foreign power to exert pressure on their own government to act against its will. (“Labor ministers: Obama keeping coalition intact,” October 12).
Those who know Jewish history should remember what happened when we invited the Romans to come and settle our quarrels. Does it need repeating that the whole point of Israel’s rebirth is Jewish sovereignty?
If you’re here, you see it
Sir, – In his letter of October 12, Rabbi Yosef Blau of New York asks, “What does it mean to be a Jewish democratic state?”
Like the judge who declared that he could not define pornography but he knew it when he saw it, I would suggest the same applies to a Jewish democratic state. If you’re here, you see it. If you’re in Washington Heights – where I used to live – you don’t.
JJ GROSS Jerusalem
Steering people
Sir, – Gershon Baskin (“Chronicles of peace or epitaphs of failure,” October 12) tells it as it is. Thus far, at least, neither the people of Israel nor the Palestinians are calling for more strenuous moves by their leaders toward peace or even to get on the right track toward peace. Neither Netanyahu nor Abbas are really trying to move their people forward on the track toward a real peace. That, I believe, is what is missing from the equation.
I can’t see why Obama is to blame. He has been doing everything possible to steer the two leaders in the right direction. He has thrown bones to both sides, trying every possible means to get them to move. But, thus far they have resisted, and continue to resist.
If the two leaders cannot get together long enough to hammer out some kind of agreement, then Baskin is right. We could go another twenty years without reaching some kind of real agreement. Perhaps that is what will make the difference – the rise of a new leadership on both sides.
Glass houses
Sir, – Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat describes Israel’s demand for recognition as a Jewish state as “racist” (“PM offers new freeze for recognition of Jewish state,” October 12).
Yet, Erekat has been silent on truly racist Palestinian positions, such as the PA law imposing the death penalty on any Palestinian who sells land to a Jew; or PA President Mahmoud Abbas stating that no Jew will be allowed to live in a Palestinian state; or the PA insisting that only Jews must cease building within their own communities in the disputed West Bank, while the Palestinians continue to build day and night.
MORTON A. KLEIN National president Zionist Organization of America New York
Gone to their heads
Sir, – The cabinet vote regarding the new oath of allegiance has obviously gone to Avigdor Lieberman and Eli Yishai’s heads (“Right to advance more loyalty bills after cabinet passes oath of allegiance,” October 11).
Yishai intends on proposing legislation that would allow the revocation of citizenship from people who join “Hamas, Hizbullah and other terrorist organizations.” What about Jewish terrorist organizations as defined by our own security forces and legislature? Has he thought of the implications of such legislation?
Then there is Lieberman’s reviving his initial oath of allegiance idea: to demand of all 16-year-olds to sign a declaration of loyalty to Israel and Zionism. Does he live in a complete vacuum to think that this would only affect Israeli Arab youth? What about the myriads of non-Zionist (and sometimes even anti-state) native-born Israeli haredi youth who will definitely have major problems with signing such a declaration of loyalty to the very secular State of Israel and Zionism?
The general idea of any kind of oath or declaration of allegiance may be legally sound and morally justifiable for any country. But in most cases, especially the often-cited American example, such pledges, oaths or declarations are highly inclusive, and those refusing to declare or sign them are the exceptions to the rule.
The present Israeli versions of such oaths are quite the opposite: very exclusive and open to major and massive protest in more sectors of the general population than our esteemed legislators even thought of.
GERSHON HARRIS Hatzor Haglilit
Sir, – I completely agree with the headline “War archives ‘are being sensationalized’ by press” (October 6). But the article itself contributes to this sensationalizing.
It is one thing to quote from the protocols about Dayan’s comments that “wounded IDF soldiers should be abandoned.” But this should be put into the context of that day.
The strongholds on the Suez Canal were surrounded, they no longer had any military purpose, and there was no chance of reinforcing them within 24 hours. The issue was whether they should be told to continue to fight – and take more casualties – or to be given the chance to surrender and possibly to save their lives.
So telling them that they had permission to surrender was in fact saving their lives.
It is one thing to state that “Dayan became very scared that the US would not help if Israel attacked first” as though this were unrealistic, and to ignore the fact that Kissinger, American secretary of state at the time, told Israel: “If you fire the first shot, you won’t have a dogcatcher in this country supporting you. You won’t have presidential support. You’ll be alone, all alone.”
Indeed, just a few hours before the war began, Kissinger called Shalev at the Israel Embassy in Washington and warned again against any preemptive action.
Dayan was rightfully concerned that the US would not replace any of the essential Phantom jets that might be lost in the war and hence a military success could still be a disaster for Israel. This was a legitimate concern of our minister of defense.
And to state that irrespective of Dayan’s fears, “Israel was never in real existential threat during the war” ignores the reality of a two-front war.
David Kimche has described the strategy of the war as the Egyptians holding the attention of Israel with the crossing of the canal, but it was the Syrians that were supposed to drive down from the Golan Heights and conquer the north of Israel.
If Moshe Dayan had not insisted on the dispatch of the 7th Armored Brigade to the Golan a few days before the war, and if not for the initiative of an engineering officer who placed large numbers of anti-tank mines on the Golan just days before the war, the Syrians would have been able to easily attain their objective.
Silencing the critics
Sir, – In his op-ed “The silence of the rabbis” (October 7), Yizhar Hess claims the chief rabbis remained silent as IDF conversions were challenged.
However, Jonah Mandel cites Chief Rabbi Amar’s letter to the Knesset as follows:
“For many years the chief military rabbis acted to convert IDF soldiers in the army’s conversion courts... The chief military rabbis acted in full cooperation with the chief rabbis of Israel, in all matters pertaining to religion and state. Soldiers who converted in these conversion courts, were also wed in keeping with the Halacha for many years by marriage registrars, in accordance with all religious standards” (“Military conversions are halachically valid, says Amar,” September 17).
Hess’s statement that Rabbi Amar has remained silent on the issue is blatantly false. Hess would do better to maintain a decent silence himself.
Lawrence, NY