The Mideast: Who's Responsible For What

We disagree that the decline in the Palestinian economy was caused by the Israeli system of closure--and not by the intifada ("Sharon's Israel," European Edition Cover Story, Feb. 12). In 1999, with the same Israeli controls in place as were there in early 2000, the economy grew 6% to 7%. What foolhardy nation would not put restrictions in place when riots and terrorist acts become a daily occurrence? The result is that the Palestinians have bitten the hand that feeds them, and now they are suffering the consequences.

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.

Marc Tokayer

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?

Arthur Siegel

New York

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.

Antonio Camargo

Sao Paulo, Brazil

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