Letters

By , M.I. ElLaissi, Joseph Wechsler, Stu Silverstein, and Judie Amsel

Fairness in US Middle East Policy

The opinion-page article "Needed: Even-Handed Policy" (Feb. 3) defies what little geopolitical logic may be said to exist in the Middle East.

Israel has a credible nuclear deterrent because its neighbors understand that Israel will use weapons if backed into a corner. This reality has maintained peace in the Middle East for more than twenty years. Israel is a stable democracy, with a commitment to human rights unique in the region, and has demonstrated responsible maturity in possessing these weapons.

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I don't think anybody seriously views the United States as an honest broker in the Middle East. We exchange information with the Israeli government that bolsters our security in ways that oppose the interests of neighboring Arab states. The US, of all countries, does not hold the moral high ground to dictate security on this issue.

Rob Meltzer

Framingham, Mass.

It is for such clear, comprehensive, and evenhanded articles that I have read the Monitor for thirty years. Thank you so much.

M.I. ElLaissi

Statesboro, Ga.

The author criticizes [US policy] for being pro-Israel and anti-Arab. But evenhandedness is a policy for conflicts between goals of equal moral justification. Israel's goal is to exist. The Arab goal is to deny Israel the right to exist.

Pining for Eisenhower's evenhandedness is misplaced. That policy was inherited from the British Colonial Office in cahoots with the Foreign Office as formulated by Ernest Bevin, who made no secret of his aversion for Israel. That policy didn't work because it was evenhandedness for its own sake.

Joseph Wechsler

Chicago

The US should be favoring and encouraging such governments as democratic Israel. Should an Arab nation develop into such a democracy, we should encourage that as well. Twentieth-century history has proven that since democratically elected leaders need to answer to their constituencies, they are less apt to launch into reckless war.

The author wildly exaggerates the number of Arabs killed by Israelis in the territories. According to B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights group (considered by many to be pro-Palestinian), 20 Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers or citizens last year - hardly the 350-plus figure the essay would have you believe.

Stu Silverstein

Bridgeport, Conn.

Just because Israel possesses nuclear capability does not mean that Arab states are in danger of becoming nuclear targets. Saddam Hussein, on the other hand, has already used biological weapons on his own population as well as refused to honor his commitment to allow inspection of potential weapon sites.

Israel's restraint was well demonstrated during the Gulf War when Iraq attacked, without provocation, yet Israel, at the request of the United States, did not retaliate.

The author insults Arabs in his excuses for terrorism, stating that "they are striking back by the only means available to them." Thankfully, most Arab people know and use nonviolent methods, such as media campaigns, boycotts, and negotiations, to present their issues to the public.

He also suggests going back to the "even-handed" treatment of the Eisenhower-Dulles years. When Israel was in its infancy, the US had a weapons embargo against Israel while arming Arab states. In 1956, during the Suez crises, the US threatened additional sanctions against Israel. The author appears to want to return to this low point in US-Israel relations. As part of the agreement for Israel, France, and Britain to withdraw from the Sinai in 1956, Egypt guaranteed Israel open passage through the Straits of Tiran. Eleven years later, Egypt reneged by closing this passage. This was the direct cause of the Six Day War in 1967.

Judie Amsel

Mayfield Heights, Ohio

Bruce Amsel

Your letters are welcome. All letters are subject to editing. Mail to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

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