Stephen and Michal Kramer
Alfe Menashe, Israel
Ariel Sharon, who a mere three months ago was considered unelectable, trounced Ehud Barak by the largest margin--more than 25%--in the history of direct elections for Israel's Prime Ministership. Your cover article considers the will of the Israeli electorate a risky bet. Instead of castigating the Israeli electorate, you would do your readers a service by analyzing and trying to understand how this about-face came about.
Petach Tikva, Israel
"Sharon's Israel" states that the average Israeli is 10 times as rich as the average Palestinian. A comparable ratio applies between Israelis and Jordanians, Egyptians, and Syrians-- because of their corrupt economic systems, a feature they share with Palestinians. They can't blame Israel for that.
You also say that "the chief culprit [for the drop in the Palestinian economy] is the Israeli system of closure." It would be more accurate to blame it on the intifada. Do you really expect the Israelis to allow unrestricted access to people who call for the death of all Jews?
Sooner or later, Israel will have to cut its military arrogance and face the unsurpassable truth: The legitimate will of a people is and always will be the ultimate weapon. Ask the Americans (Vietnam) or the Russians (Afghanistan) about two of the greatest defeats of the 20th century. The lesson is that no matter how many one kills or subdues, more will be born and strike back until justice is made. Win or lose, Ehud Barak will be seen in the future as a visionary. The time has come for Israel to yield and make peace. If, down the road, peace is broken by the Palestinians, military arrogance may finally make sense because the power of will will then have flowed back to Israel's side. But that's still a big if. As things stand now, Israelis are definitively not the more willing party.
Sao Paulo, Brazil "Provincial profligates" (Latin America, Jan. 29) has an incorrect perspective about fiscal problems in Argentina and, in particular, about the attitude of the province of Buenos Aires. The article says: "If the provinces are going to break their agreement to freeze spending, it will likely start with Buenos Aires' current governor, Carlos Ruckauf." Carlos Ruckauf took office in December, 1999. In his first year of government, the provincial primary expenditures were reduced by approximately 5%, which means a decrease of $500 million, and the budget for 2001 establishes a further reduction. Why should one think that a governor who is reducing expenditures should change his policy?
It is important to add that Argentina's provinces, with the active participation of Ruckauf, have shown their commitment in supporting the federal government through two fiscal pacts, in 1999 and in 2000, resigning revenues that would otherwise have been used to cover provincial deficits in an effort to reduce the federal deficit. These fiscal pacts are sufficient evidence that the provinces have a clear idea of the need to strengthen the federal government's fiscal position in order to lower risk and to attract investment capital.
Jorge E. Sarghini
Minister of Economy
Province of Buenos Aires