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    Dear Editor: 

    “Our aid is not intended to be a blank check,” J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami, stated on October 27, at the organization’s annual conference. This type of so-called “conditioning,” “linking,” and/or “squeezing” of Israel over US aid and support has an unfortunately long history in Washington and it is time for it to stop, once and for all. It’s unseemly and the US – Israel relationship loses its value for both nations every single time this road is gone down.

    Ben-Ami’s proposed tactics seem very close to those actually employed by Henry Kissinger in the 1970s. Kissinger is due to speak at an upcoming Jewish conference in New York, and it’s worth considering the real cost of this type of rhetoric and strategy.

    Distinguished Israeli diplomat Yehuda Avner (1928-2015) saw this close up in his role as a speechwriter, secretary, or adviser to five different Israeli prime ministers, from both sides of Israel’s political spectrum—Golda Meir, Levi Eshkol, Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, and Shimon Peres. He also served as Israel’s ambassador to both Britain and Australia, as well as in other senior diplomatic positions. 

    In his widely-acclaimed book, The Prime Ministers, Avner shared numerous remarkable anecdotes—including some troubling episodes involving Secretary of State Kissinger during both the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the 1974-1975 shuttle diplomacy between Egypt and Israel.

    Avner bluntly refers to American officials—meaning Kissinger—who “tied” Golda’s hands on the eve of the Yom Kippur War, telling her “in no uncertain terms not to fire the first shot,” and even “warned” her “against full-scale mobilization” of Israel’s reserve forces. Kissinger did not want Israel to win a decisive victory because he thought that would make it hard to wring concessions out of the Israelis after the war.

    Avner quotes from a conversation between Kissinger and President Richard Nixon on the ninth day of the war. Israel was begging for U.S. weapons. Kissinger, with Nixon’s agreement, was stalling on the weapons shipments. “We’ve got to squeeze the Israelis when this is over and the Russian have to know it,” Nixon said. “We’ve got to squeeze them goddamn hard.”

    Kissinger replied: “Well, we are going to squeeze them; we are going to start diplomacy in November after the Israeli elections.”

    And squeeze them he did, pressuring the Israelis to release the encircled Egyptian Third Army and various other concessions. When the new prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, hesitated to give into Kissinger’s demands, the secretary of state orchestrated what Avner calls a “brutal” message from President Gerald Ford to Rabin. The message blamed Rabin for the absence of peace and announced a “reassessment” of America’s policy toward Israel. The “reassessment” consisted of a cut-off of all U.S. weapons shipments.

    Avner offers a vivid account of Rabin’s confrontation with Kissinger after the message arrived. The conversation began with Kissinger disingenuously claiming that he had “nothing to do with the President’s message.” Avner continues:

    “Rabin, lighting a cigarette, glared at him through the flames of his lighter, and said, ‘Henry, I don’t believe you. You asked the President to send that message. You dictated it yourself.’

    “Kissinger, shocked, began shouting, ‘How dare you suggest such a thing? Do you think the President of the United States is a puppet and I pull his strings?’”

    “Rabin did not answer. He just stood there in stony silence.

    “Kissinger, beside himself with frustration and rage, yelled, ‘You don’t understand. I’m trying to save you. The American public won’t stand for this.’ ”

    Kissinger’s histrionics were the giveaway. If he genuinely had nothing to do with the message, he would have just calmly denied it. Instead, he was “shouting,” “yelling,” and “beside himself with rage”—because Rabin had the audacity to see right through him.

    It was an open secret that President Ford had little knowledge of, or interest in, Egyptian-Israeli diplomacy. He delegated that responsibility to Kissinger and followed Kissinger’s recommendations. The notion that Ford, with no advice or input from Kissinger, had decided on his own to blame the Israelis and cut off weapons, was absurd. And Rabin dared to call him on it. 

    Equally absurd was Kissinger’s claim that “the American public won’t stand for this.” The American public did not know, or care, whether Israel surrendered some mountain pass or oil field in the Sinai. It was Kissinger who was obsessed with “squeezing” Israel for those concessions. It was Kissinger, posing as a “senior American official,” who tried to incite the American public about Israel by feeding reporters stories about Israel supposedly obstructing peace.

    Kissinger’s vicious treatment of Israel should have disqualified him from ever being honored with speaking invitations by American Jewish organizations. The Jewish Leadership Conference erred when it decided to invite Kissinger to be the featured speaker at its upcoming conference. There is still time to cancel.

    What’s more, before the primary contests start, Ben-Ami should retract his statement. 

    Putting the “squeeze” on Israel is wrong whether it is only in words by a former Bill Clinton staffer like Ben-Ami or it is in actual deeds by a Richard Nixon staffer like Kissinger. These types of words and deeds must be condemned by all good friends of Israel. 

    Moshe Phillips

    Editor’s Note: Some things never change.



    Dear Editor:

    Senator Simcha Felder (D-Midwood) and Assemblywomen Aileen Gunther (D-Forestburgh) introduced legislation (S6802) that would increase the Volunteer Firefighter and EMS State income tax credit for the first time in 12 years. The $200 tax credit currently available to active volunteers has remained unchanged since first established in 2007. This important legislation would increase the credit to $500 for eligible individuals and $1000 for married joint filers who do not receive any direct monetary compensation for their service. If enacted, the credit would go into effect for taxable years beginning in 2020.

    “Volunteer firefighters and first responders including Hatzalah members are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No matter the weather, the conditions or the time of day, these extraordinary people answer the call to keep New Yorkers safe,” said Senator Simcha Felder. “It is time to recognize their invaluable contribution by updating and increasing this tax credit.” 

    “New York State is in desperate need of attracting more volunteer firefighters.  The brave men and women who often risk their lives in order to protect our communities do so without pay and without many of the other benefits afforded to career firefighters,” said Assemblywomen Aileen Gunther. “They save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars every year and we all owe them a debt of gratitude.”

    “Volunteer emergency medical service organizations like Hatzolah support and further city resources and have been shown to improve response times in emergencies where every second counts. While our volunteers are unconditionally committed, it is certainly encouraging to be appreciated in this way,” said Isaac Stern, CEO of Hatzalah.

    The number of volunteer firefighters in New York State has dropped from 110,000 in 1990 to fewer than 100,000 today. Increasing the tax credit can strengthen recruitment at a time when many fire departments and EMS agencies throughout the state are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain the next generation of volunteers.

    “Our system of providing fire and EMS services varies by municipal jurisdiction, but most of our emergency responders are part-time volunteers. Unfortunately, each year fewer and fewer New Yorkers are willing or able to volunteer and we need to do more to incentivize them. We support this legislation because we need these volunteers to fight fires and respond to medical emergencies in our communities,” said Stephen J. Acquario, Executive Director of New York State Association of Counties.

    “As members of the communities they serve, volunteers closely familiar with a neighborhood can always be found nearby, and are exceptionally devoted. New York State owes a debt of gratitude to the men and women whose sense of personal duty and monumental commitment often come at great personal cost. This tax credit is a small price to pay for the tremendous value and savings that volunteer first responders provide,” concluded Senator Felder.              

    Sheri Toiv

    Editor’s Note: It is the least we can do to show our appreciation for Hatzalah and the like.



    Dear Editor:

    Some people, when they are asked why they don’t do a certain Halacha (hat and jacket, washing on pizza or dipping foods), they say: “It’s not my minhag, stop bothering me,” or maybe “it’s not your business.” There is a posuk of Hoche’ach toche’ach Es Amisecha. How do I know when to tell someone a halacha or not? the Chofetz chaim talks about the importance of that posuk, but it sounds like everybody wants to do it when told they are doing it wrong…. what to do?

    Yehuda B

    Editor’s Note: I would suggest speaking to your Local Rov.



    Dear Editor:

    At the tiger exhibit, there is a sign about how tigers are endangered, but none about how they are dangerous! Why are they flattering tigers by ignoring their faults? There should be a sign shaming the tigers for their many sins! The zoo gives free room and board to those would-be killers, just because they’re endangered and people like looking at them, and everyone just ignores the fact that the tigers would eat them if given the chance!

    Reb Yidel Schewartz.

    Editors Note: Tiger’s can’t read.




    Dear Editor:

    Eizabeth Warren is planning Medicare For All. You think she is going to try to convince us that if we want to keep our doctor we could? You gotta love liberals convincing you that they will give you everything you wish.

    Editor’s Note: The sad thing is that most people are going to vote for her.




    Dear Editor:

    It seems like the fact that the Republicans stormed the room where the hearings were heard for this impeachment helped. The Democrats will hold a vote to open the impeachment proceeding to the public.

    Editor’s Note: I wonder if evidence like this would be admissible in a regular court of law?



    Dear Editor:

    I don’t get the big deal of the US killing Bagdahdi. There will be a new leader installed very quickly!

    Editor’s Note: True, but it may serve as a deterrent for other would-be leaders.




    Dear Editor:

     In a presidency filled with seemingly one new low point after another, finally we have some legitimately very good news: Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Baghdadi was killed in a raid by U.S. forces in northern Syria on Saturday.

    To his credit, in a news conference on Sunday, President Trump rightfully gave praise to the great intelligence work that preceded the Baghdadi operation, and to our elite military forces for their phenomenal and precise execution. His restraint in not making this operation all about him was appropriate and surprising.

    Trump might just find that acting in a truly “presidential” manner garners such positive affirmation that he will try it more often. If the economy does not falter before the next election, and if Trump can just tamp down his impulsiveness and ego a bit, he will truly be a formidable candidate.

    Personally, I do not believe that he wants to do this, nor do I think he is capable of doing it.

    Ken D

    Editor’s Note: I guess we can wait and see.




    Dear Editor:

    Baghdadi’s death marks the end of a chapter, but the saga continues.

    I’m not one to celebrate a death, and Trump’s remarks about a whimpering, weeping coward aren’t helpful. He praised the Russians, Syrians, Turks and even Iran, then cast shade on our European allies. Now Trump is sending troops to “guard” the oil fields, which just reinforces the militant jihadist narrative.

    Baghdadi may be gone, but the extremist beliefs that took down the twin towers in 2001 and carved out a provisional caliphate aren’t going away.

    Mark M

    Editor’s Note: One has to start somewhere and these Moslem Caliphates must be stopped.



    Dear Editor:

    Once again, Trump uses sound and fury to create a big distraction. Amid the entire furor about hosting the G-7 at the Doral resort and then canceling those plans, it has been revealed that climate change will not be on the agenda when the leaders meet next summer.

    Who sets the agenda?

    Carl S

    Editor’s Note: Do I sense a jealousy here?





    Dear Editor:

    The Kurds fought and lost thousands of their own people for the hope of a homeland that the United Nations might help to protect. But last week, Vice President Mike Pence announced a deal with Turkey meant to protect them from being slaughtered.

    Is this our currency of choice now? Annihilation or capitulation?

    Shmully H

    Editor’s Note: It does seem peculiar.