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'Reminder of Folly'

January 04, 1988

People of widely divergent views despair the awful violence and deaths in Gaza. Everybody loses. Historic Israeli values have been scarred, Palestinian lives are lost without progress toward legitimate aspirations. The world's hottest region is more dangerous.

The Times editorial ("Reminder of Folly," Dec. 24) properly places this current violent outbreak in a larger context. The rioting is not an isolated event but the product of unnecessary and reversible policies. Yet The Times errs in primarily blaming Israel for it while understating Arab failure. The editorial barely acknowledges the most central fact of the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. So long as the Arabs close their eyes to Israel's very existence or condone hysterical calls for Israel's destruction, Israel will not, indeed cannot, be expected to enter negotiations.

The Times also gives undue prominence to the extreme views of Ariel Sharon, who although a cabinet minister, does not represent the views of a majority of Israelis. It is unfortunate that he enjoys a strong following but so, too, do many other Israeli leaders who bitterly oppose his utter disregard for non-Jewish lives.

More serious is The Times not so subtle swipe at the pro-Israel lobby in Washington. Is it the lobby's success or its very existence that is troublesome? Either way, The Times is dead wrong to insinuate that Americans who have organized to support Israel are obstacles to peace.

Surrounded by countries sworn to its destruction since its birth nearly 40 years ago, Israel has fought four wars to protect a piece of land the size of Los Angeles County. Therefore, Israel and its supporters must do all they can to fortify Israel militarily and economically. Sadly, few nations stand up for Israel. Her only consistent friend is America. It's the job of the pro-Israel lobby to do everything in its power to build that friendship. Without it, Israel would face absolute peril. And without Israel, the United States would lose its only dependable, democratic ally in the Middle East.

The Times' criticism of the United States for imposing too few restrictions on its aid to Israel insults our partner. Efforts to restrict our aid are counterproductive as they force self-respecting Israelis of all political persuasions to harden their views and stand together because national pride is at stake. The political winner in Israel if the United States threw down the gauntlet of restricted aid would be the very Israeli that The Times condemns--Ariel Sharon.

Despite the Gaza violence, this could still be an opportune time for negotiations. Peace with Egypt is still secure, Syria is isolated, the PLO is weak and King Hussein's Jordan is ready. Israel must take bold steps. To do so, Israel needs the confidence that its primary ally, the United States, is resolute in support.

TERRY B. FRIEDMAN

Assemblyman, 43rd District

Sherman Oaks

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