November 25: The fate of the nation - and our soldiers

November 25 The fate of

The fate of the nation - and our soldiers Sir, - If it is true that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is agreeable to the prospect of releasing close to 1,000 terrorists, including the worst terrorists Israel has ever encountered ("Hamas confirms progress toward Schalit swap, but says 'it's too early to peak of an agreement,'" November 24), then we are inviting the next intifada into the streets of Israeli cities. I wonder whether the prime minister will then show civil responsibility and resign in the wake of the disaster he will have brought with his own signature. Do we never learn from history? Would the USA release the 9/11 terrorists for a few US soldiers captured by al-Qaida? It seems we are losing our healthy survival instincts. SHLOMO FELDMANN Givatayim Sir, - The debate over the fate of Gilad Schalit is heartrending. As the grandfather of 10 sabras plus two grandsons-in-law, I can imagine how precious Gilad is to his parents. Thus it is with a heavy heart that I oppose any prisoner swap. Of those grandsons I mention, one is age 12, and another is due for induction into a combat unit in March. One is currently serving and is due to be discharged to the reserves in the same month, while another is a career officer. Another grandson is a married yeshiva student. The remaining grandsons all are reservists serving in combat units, including three in elite units. If a prisoner swap goes through, they will all be in danger of the same fate as Gilad each time they are called to serve. Hamas has made no bones about their intent to kidnap others and to blackmail Israel. DAVID STAR Ma'aleh Adumim A constructive reply Sir, - I suggest that Mr. Leonard Zurakov reread my November 23 article "Gilo and the Green Line." Hopefully this will cause him to withdraw his incorrect statement that I said Gilo was not a settlement ("...Futilely attacked," Letters, November 24). I merely drew attention to the fact that it is a Jerusalem neighborhood with a population around 40,000, very different than the remote outposts in the West Bank. I pointed to the dictionary definition of a settlement and left it to the reader to categorize Gilo. Since Mr. Zurakov refers to a map, I suggest that he look at the map on my Web site, which clearly shows Gilo's location in southwest Jerusalem. MAURICE OSTROFF Herzliya Commanders say jump, troops ask how high... Sir, - Rabbi Stewart Weiss's article "For God - or country?" (November 24) raises the issue of obeying orders to dismantle a settlement. However, with all due respect to Rabbi Weiss (and I have a great deal of respect, as he has helped me with many personal issues), he says nothing new in his article. It is a brilliant piece of straddling the fence: on the one hand, but on the other hand. As someone who participated in the 2005 disengagement in Gush Katif and other places, I'd like to shine a slightly different light on the matter. When your superior officer says jump, you ask how high. It's that simple. You should be 3 feet in the air before asking which direction you should be jumping in. That's what keeps an army ticking. You could like it or not like it. That's completely irrelevant. When I was in basic training, we were sent off base for a week to stay in Latrun. There, we were given lessons in humanity, how to treat ourselves and others properly, regardless of race - how to be a mensch. The commanders and officers of the IDF all go through the same courses and the same seminars, and the same way we trust them with our sons' lives, we should trust that they can tell the difference between right and wrong. A commander or officer is chosen because he or she is deemed capable of shouldering the responsibility. A line soldier is not meant to think. As cruel and harsh as it sounds, most soldiers are there to fill the ranks; they are needed more for their accuracy with a weapon than for the validity of their arguments. An IDF soldier is allowed to disobey a direct order on one condition only: If it is explicitly illegal - if it involves abusing the human rights on which our country was founded. In any other case, a soldier is expected to perform, and only afterward file a complaint through the proper authorities. Unfortunately, and this is something many refuse to understand or accept, the great rabbis have no place when it comes to a question of this magnitude. When it comes to using the radio or driving on Shabbat, it is understandable and even commendable that they have worked to find loopholes. But even if they couldn't find the loopholes, the answer would still be simple: Get in the jeep, or go to jail. The needs of pikuah nefesh, of going on a patrol to protect others, supersede Shabbat. In the case of dismantling a settlement, it's a simple case of dina d'malchuta dina - the law of the land in which you reside is the law you must obey. The government was elected by the people, for the people, and that includes every single soldier and every single rabbi. The same way we trust our commanders and officers to be responsible enough, so we should trust our leaders. Those leaders can be criticized, but their orders cannot and should not be pushed aside by a rabbi who has a following, no matter how large. If you want to oppose something, do it in proper, legal ways: Stage a legal protest, raise a petition, give out fliers, etc. There are hundreds of options. But once we start breaking the law, no matter whose name it's in, the law is still broken. BEN GROSS Ra'anana ...But don't make them do the dirty work Sir, - The issue of authorized or non-authorized settlements is constantly in the news. The nations of the world take great delight in deriding Israel for nor forcibly evacuating the so-called unauthorized settlements ("Kouchner: Gilo regrettable, but won't stop the diplomatic process," November 19). The question of using soldiers to forcibly evict men, women and children is a moral one. Police should be used if the government feels that it must cave to international pressure. Israel adheres to the highest moral codes in the world when it comes to its soldiers. Making soldiers do the dirty work of forcibly removing Israelis makes them party to many negative intentions and actions. This is not what an Israeli army should have to deal with, psychologically or physically. The government should rethink its policy to arrive at the same sense of empathy and sympathy that we extend to anyone who loses a home. THELMA SUSSWEIN Jerusalem Be a friend, America - free Pollard Sir, - The continued incarceration of Jonathan Pollard is groundless and totally unjustified ("It's time for a fresh wind in the Pollard case," November 22). Pollard did not commit an act of treason for the benefit of an enemy. He leaked certain information to a friendly country. There has never been any question as to this relationship between Israel and the US. Pollard has paid the price for his actions with 25 years of his life that he can never reclaim. The United States is the pinnacle of freedom and human rights. The Statue of Liberty in the New York harbor symbolizes these longstanding virtues. The United States, as our friend, should demonstrate mercy and compassion and effect this release now. We and our leaders have to be more forceful and insist on Pollard's rights - by petition, demonstrating or whatever it takes, He should be freed and allowed to come to Israel. Otherwise, how can we think of the United States as a friend? TOVA WALD Jerusalem