letters to the editor - 4/28/02

April 29, 2002

Postcard from Israel demonstrates the fear

To the editor:

I recently met with a friend who just returned from Israel. A senior official, his observations might be of interest to your readers. He noted that the "Jewish State" was enduring a very difficult period. He noted that the current Palestinian uprisings are not an existential threat to Israel. The Palestinians cannot defeat Israel militarily, nor are they even trying. Israel has suffered much more serious threats to its existence. In 1948, 1967 and 1973, Israel could have been destroyed by powerful Arab armies.

However, he noted, unlike all of Israel's past wars, this one is being conducted in the heart of Israeli cities and towns. Every Israeli feels threatened. Random terrorism causes every person to feel personally targeted. Parents worry every day when they send their children to school. Commuters avoid getting on buses. Drivers try to stay as far away as possible from buses while waiting at traffic lights. Malls, theaters and restaurants are mostly empty. Hotels have high vacancy rates and tourism is way down. Shopkeepers have a terrible time just trying to stay in business.


He noted that the savagery of Palestinian terrorism is difficult to comprehend. He said, "we simply cannot understand the cruel indifference to human life that the Palestinian leadership is prepared to impose on its people in its struggle against the Jewish state." Sometimes the violence has political objectives, but other times it is chaotic and nihilistic, having no grander purpose than violence for its own sake.

What makes this situation especially tragic, he said is the fact that Israel was prepared to give the Palestinians every thing they will ultimately get anyway. He pointed out there was no need for what Arafat has termed the Palestinian War of Liberation. He called attention to Israeli Foreign Minister Peres's recent statements that said, "Israel was prepared to give the Palestinians liberation without war."

Israel had been prepared to give the Palestinians almost everything they demanded at Camp David. But rather than accept the Barak proposals - or even make a counter-offer - the Palestinians turned their guns (given to them by Israel) on Israeli citizens. Jew and Arab. The awareness that Israel went as far as it could and that this was not even close to satisfying the minimal Palestinian demands has caused great consternation and loss of hope not only among Israelis, but among American observers as well. Even if the Barak proposals were insufficient it is difficult to imagine any diplomatic solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Most Israelis assume that it will be a very long time until another government is elected that will be prepared or able to make the compromises the Barak government offered. All of this suggests that Israel will have to endure a prolonged period of violence before hope again appears on the horizon.

The absence of any serious diplomatic solution, combined with the general sense of insecurity and a serious economic downturn (caused partially by the security situation and partially by the world economy) has left Israelis feeling isolated and vulnerable. Unemployment has reached record and dangerous proportions - this is not only true of Israel proper, but in the PLA controlled areas as well!

He ended our conversation with a positive observation. He noted that life goes on and that Israel is a modern, technologically advanced democracy. Israeli scientists (his forte) and inventors are continuing to stun the world with advances in their fields.

Israel is a remarkable place. It is a testament to the indomitable will of the Jewish people to survive, contribute to the world and find meaning in life. The Israelis are an industrious people infused with a sense of mission and purpose. The current period like past hard times shall pass. Jews have endured worse in their long historical journey.

Laurence Sharpe

U.S. Foreign Service (Retired)


Good effort to cut costs

To the editor:

It was encouraging to read that at least one member of the Hagerstown City Council is willing to consider alternatives to yet another tax hike. Penny Nigh's efforts and approach to the budget is in sharp contrast to politicians who simply operate under the assumption that the only remedy to the city's financial woes is to keep increasing taxes every year rather than taking a hard look at how wisely those tax dollars are being spent.

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