Letters: Hurdles on the way to a Ukraine deal

These letters appear in the August 1 edition of The Independent

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While any sign of a deal to resolve the conflict in Ukraine is welcome, it will be more complicated than your headline “Land for gas” (31 July) suggests. Four points must be addressed if progress is to be made.

First, the association agreement between Ukraine and the EU should be tweaked to remove any provisions that harm the legitimate economic interests of the member states of the Eurasian Union (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan).

Second, the Ukrainian constitution must recognise in practice the cultural rights of Russian, Hungarian and Tartar minorities. Here, the Belgian model of linguistic communities having devolved powers over culture and education offers an excellent example to follow, and avoids the problems of federalisation.

Third, plebiscites under OSCE supervision should be held in Crimea and the Donbas to ascertain whether the people in these regions wish to remain in a united Ukraine. Should there be a majority for separation – despite the constitutional changes made to safeguard cultural rights – then, fourthly, Russia should compensate Ukraine for the state property it will gain, and enter into a production sharing arrangement to share the proceeds from extracting coal, gas and oil from the seceding territories and any associated offshore reserves.

Greg Kaser

Your front page of 31 July again demonstrates how lucky we are to be part of Europe and to benefit from the world-class leadership and negotiating skills of Angela Merkel. By comparison our Prime Minister looks like a bad-tempered, over-promoted double-glazing salesman.

Peter Argent
Romsey, Hampshire


Strategy for a greater Israel

John Dowling asks what Israel wants (letter, 31 July)? Having visited the West Bank and Israel recently, having passed through checkpoints on foot rather than in an air-conditioned tourist coach, and witnessed the humiliation to which ordinary Palestinians are subjected, I have concluded that Israel’s approach is two-pronged, as follows.

The first prong is the Waiting for Godot strategy. Israel will never accept a single-state solution. In a single state the Jewish Israelis might find themselves outnumbered and outvoted, especially if any “right to return” were to be granted to Palestinian refugees.

So it pretends to support a two-state solution at some vague time in the future, whilst all the time building on more and more Palestinian land. Eventually the audience, in this case the rest of the world, will wake up to the realisation that Godot will never arrive, at which point Netanyahu or his successor will insist that the world recognise “the reality on the ground”.

But the presence of millions of Muslim and Christian Arabs will prevent colonisation of the whole territory, which is where the second prong comes in. Subjected to decades of humiliation and degradation, barred from the main roads across their own land, disallowed airports or entry points of their own, and dominated by military installations complete with watch-towers, the Palestinians will eventually rebel.

I remember pleading with Palestinians not to retaliate, as that is just what the Israelis want. A third intifada will give Israel the excuse to employ the arsenal supplied to it by the Great Peacemaker from across the Atlantic to pulverise the Palestinians, for many of whom this will be the last straw; they will flee to Jordan, Lebanon or Syria.

Three or four cycles of this strategy should get rid of most of them.

Robert Curtis


I read that the United States has agreed to replenish Israel’s stock of ammunition to enable it to maintain its offensive in Gaza. On 18 July the US Senate voted unanimously, 97-0, in favour of Israel’s actions.

Could someone please explain to me what the wrong is that the Palestinian people have visited upon the people and administration of the United States of America that warrants them to be on the receiving end of such treatment?

Terry Mahoney
Sidlesham, West Sussex


Ghastly anthem for TEAM England

I have watched the Commonwealth Games with great pleasure and have supported Team England. However, my joy when we win gold is somewhat diminished when I have to listen to “Jerusalem”.

Jerusalem is the core of the dispute between Judaism and Islam, it is also at the centre of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. The ghastly story of the Middle East is totally entwined with Jerusalem. I can think of no place worse than Jerusalem to build in England’s green and pleasant land.

Please can those who make the choices try again? There are so many brilliant composers, so many beautiful pieces of music to choose from, and if it must be nationalistic, Elgar is as English as the river Thames.

D Sawtell
Tydd St Giles, Cambridgeshire


Bank Holidays with no religion

Like Grace Dent (29 July) I think that the UK would benefit from a new Bank Holiday or two. We have fewer public holidays than most members of the EU. However, holidays linked to religious festivals such as Eid or Diwali would not be appropriate.

Muslims and Hindus are only 7 per cent of the UK population. The date of Eid varies from year to year. Diwali is close enough to Christmas to make extra bank holidays a problem for business. If we give these two religions their own Bank Holidays where would it finish? Would we get the solstices off for the pagans, and Yom Kippur and Chanukah for the Jews?

No. I suggest that it would be far more useful to have two new Bank Holidays on the days after the clocks go forward and backward in the autumn and spring. This would give workers time to get their body clocks sorted, and would occur at times of the year when there are at present no Bank Holidays.

Liz White
Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire


Picking the new head of the BBC Trust

Your article “MPs attack ‘biased’ shortlist for BBC Trust head” (30 July) was incorrect in stating that Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, would be leading the panel to appoint the new Chair of the BBC Trust.

As is the case for the appointments of the chairs of all public bodies that I regulate, the selection panel is being chaired by an independent public appointments assessor. The assessor is appointed by me and his role is to ensure that the selection of appointable candidates (including the drawing up of a shortlist of candidates) is made on merit, on the basis of fair and open competition, as set out in my published code of practice.

The list of appointable candidates, which is signed off only once those requirements have been met, is then submitted to the minister, who makes the final choice.

Sir David Normington
Commissioner for Public Appointments
London SW1


Sign of the times in a tin of soup

It is said that the existence of food banks is a sign of difficult times. If that is so, what does the increasing presence of those who rummage through other people’s rubbish and recycling bags mean? I used to think that only happened in Third World countries, but it appears I was wrong.

I realised one morning that the night before I had accidentally knocked an unopened tin of soup into a black plastic bag containing rubbish to be put out for collection. I am an early riser so when I get up I often check to see whether the bags have been collected. I found that the bag had been broken open and the tin of soup had gone.

Somehow, I do not think I can blame a seagull this time.

Barbara MacArthur


What is the point of business studies?

I enjoyed Emma Wilson’s letter about business studies (31 July). A holder of degrees in natural sciences and then an MBA, I have never rated business studies highly as an academic discipline. 

What is the use of hypotheses that can’t be tested or models that can’t predict anything? The only value of MBAs is to help those who have them – and the universities that offer them – to earn more money.

The Rev Dr Andrew Craig


Marxist ideologue by the seaside

With the unfortunate fire at Eastbourne pier, rebuilding is surely on the agenda. What better time to finally erect a statue to one of the seaside resort’s most unlikely fans, Friedrich Engels.

Particularly after his early retirement from the family firm, Engels spent much time at a residence close to the pier, 4 Cavendish Place, in the 1880s and was there during his final illness in 1895.

Keith Flett
London N17