Sir, – Defense Minister Ehud Barak wields much-too-much power, going his own way in the disputed territories (“Border Police evacuate settlers from Hebron home,” April 5). The lunchtime news last Wednesday reported that the residents of Beit Hamachpela in Hebron had three weeks to evacuate, and lo and behold Barak and the Border Guard evacuated them a few hours later.
Various calls have been made to get rid of Barak by holding new elections. This is totally unnecessary. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took him into his coalition when Barak was head of the Labor Party and gave him four seats. When Barak abandoned Labor and formed his new party, he should have been forced to return his ministerial position and mandate.
Netanyahu should pave the way for a new defense minister who upholds the government’s decisions. This is much easier and cheaper than new elections.
Sir, – Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s arbitrary exercise of authority to determine what goes on in Judea and Samaria does not make it right. Nor does it make much sense. It is certainly not consistent with democratic norms and values.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with Barak, the system by which he rules as virtual military dictator mocks any notion of democracy.
Responsibility for this travesty rests with the Knesset, which can legislate a remedy. For example, a ministerial committee can be appointed to oversee and regulate all decisions and activities of the Defense Ministry, IDF and Civil Administration regarding Israeli citizens residing in Judea and Samaria.
Disputes regarding non-military- and non-security-related issues should be handled by this committee, with proper judicial review if necessary. Only after lower courts have decided issues regarding land disputes should appeals to the top court be permitted.
Neither the state prosecutor nor the Civil Administration should be allowed to decide issues of land ownership without a professional, impartial and proper judicial ruling. This is what democracy is all about.
Sir, – The building in Hebron has now been “evacuated.” It was evacuated because one must uphold “the rule of law.”
Really? We released more than 1,000 terrorists to free Gilad Schalit. When we did this, we overturned more than 1,000 verdicts. Where was the rule of law then? Don’t make me laugh.
Sir, – Does Haim Amsalem (“‘Next year in Jerusalem’ for Israeli expatriates,” Comment & Features, April 5) really think these Israelis will seriously consider coming back to Israel after Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the Supreme Court and NGOs like Peace Now evict Jews from their homes? What sensible Jew would want to return to Israel when the Israeli government hasn’t learned its lesson about the removal of Jews? And how was Barak’s timing – when all the men were away and women, children and babies were alone in their homes, and just two days before Pessah? He must be proud.
Halachic Shabbat bus
Sir, – With regard to “Meretz petitions High Court over TA Shabbat buses” (April 5), the confrontation and anger displayed by both the religious and anti-religious elements in this situation disgust me. In fact there is a simple halachic solution that would satisfy those who wish to ride the buses on Shabbat and actually reduce the harm and assault to the sensitivities of those who are Sabbath-observant.
First, allow the buses to run on Shabbat, but ensure that only non-Jewish drivers are at the wheel. Second, have the drivers limit their speed to a sedate 25 kph. Third, have them stop at every stop, whether necessary or not; thus, Jews would not be responsible for the bus stopping or starting. Finally, charge no fares so that no money changes hands.
As a result, fewer people would drive cars or take taxis on Shabbat, which should reduce noise and pollution and allow those who wish to travel on buses to do so with minimum disturbance to their religious neighbors. As most people who use the buses regularly buy monthly passes, the cost to the bus company could be covered by a small increase in the monthly ticket.
A win-win solution is surely preferable to a drawn out legal battles.
Snake in the Grass
Sir – Regarding “German Nobel winner says Israel is greatest danger to world peace” (April 5), in his youth a Waffen SS-er but in mid-life a prominent and worthy left-winger. Now, Günter Grass’s life at old age has come full circle.
MOSHE-MORDECHAI VAN ZUIDEN
Sir, – Cultured and civilized societies are constantly being duped by the adage that states “The clothes make the man.”
What should be obvious to all thinking people is the fact that clothing merely portrays the outer appearance, which is often betrayed by the wearer’s character and personality.
Günter Grass proves that smoking a pipe, looking collegiate and being awarded a coveted honor does not in the least transform a Nazi into a decent human being.
ZEV CHAMUDOT `
Sir, – Now that Günter Grass has reached the ripe old age of 84, he can afford to revert to being a Nazi again.
Sir, – So having a Nobel Prize in your pocket allows you to utter anything whatsoever?
Sir, – It always makes headlines when VIPs misspeak (or miswrite) themselves in public. But it is rare to find two such cases in the same day’s headlines – what on earth were Günter Grass and Yossi Beilin thinking? Perhaps Grass published his insane and silly anti-Israel poem because he is getting senile? It obviously came out of an aimless mental fog he could not control, but because he is a famous novelist the thing was published and made a stir.
It’s the same with Beilin (“Beilin calls on Abbas to dismantle PA”).
If Mahmoud Abbas broke down the PA and turned the governance of the territories back to Israel it would cost the country untold billions and only serve to sever all possible ties to a possible peace process.
Abbas himself has retreated from a threat to dismantle the PA precisely because the consequences of doing so are overwhelming.
High price of gas
Sir, – Including the price of gasoline in the hue and cry for social justice comes from our expensive addiction to private cars.
One in six Israelis owns a car.
This mindset has serious repercussions on our economy, with yearly expenditures of $5 billion for crude oil to distill the gasoline, and $1.2 billion for the purchase of new cars. Part of the high cost of living of Israeli families is the purchase and upkeep of private cars. Part of the detriment to healthy living is the air pollution they generate.
The taxes on new cars, fuel, licenses and insurance are in a vicious cycle, since their use is to build and maintain more roads in our small country to offset the traffic density generated by new cars.
Our elected leaders could have and should have fostered widespread public transportation of a professional rail service and competitive bus companies supported by government and private investor funds.