Letters: Olmert's border plan

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Olmert's border plan invites massive violence no one wants

Sir: Mr Olmert says he is ready to negotiate with Hamas if they recognise the state of Israel (report, 30 March). But which state? The pre-1967 one? The one running roughly along the separation barrier that Olmert seems intent on trying to sell to his Israeli constituency? Or the biblical greater Israel the settlers and many in the US seem to want?

Maybe Hamas would be wise to accept the first option if it leads to meaningful talks. But anything more than that at this stage must be out of the question. It would, in any case, be illegal under all UN resolutions since 1967.

And for Mr Olmert to talk of redrawing Israel's borders without agreeing to talks with the people whose land he would be appropriating seems to invite the massive violent response that nobody wants.

It will be just as hard for Hamas's constituency to cede control of East Jerusalem and large areas of the West Bank as it will be for the Israelis to see settlers being forced out of homes that their politicians have been telling them for years are on "their" land.

The violence that may come is just as likely to be intracommunal as between Israel and the Palestinians. The concessions both sides must make are huge, because their politicians have dug themselves into impossibly entrenched positions for the past 39 years.



Sir: Johann Hari accuses Ehud Olmert's plan as amounting to "permanent theft of territory acquired by war" and calls for a total withdrawal of Israel to the pre-1967 borders (Opinion, 30 March). Israel was attacked in 1967 and had to defend itself from annihilation by Arab forces.

Whether right or wrong, these settlements were built for security, among other reasons, in response to that attack and would not have existed otherwise.

It is therefore unfair to expect Israel to put itself back in the pre-1967 position and expose itself again, especially with Hamas in power and the shocking rhetoric from Iran.



The green answer is not biofuels

Sir: Doug Warn's letter "Alcohol in cars" (31 March) suggests a significant part of the answer to the climate change threat is to be found in switching our cars en masse to biofuels. Unfortunately, this well-intentioned idea reflects greenwashing industry propaganda and not the facts.

A study recently in the journal Science found present bioethanol technology (the "market leader") does not significantly reduce emissions in carbon dioxide, the main gas causing global warming.

Professor Alex Farrell, from the energy and resources group in the University of California at Berkeley, found there is only about a 13 per cent reduction in C0 2 emissions for (pure) bioethanol compared to gasoline. Ethanol's emissions-savings capacity is, then, less than 1 per cent when it is mixed 5 per cent to 95 per cent with petrol in today's fuels.

Talk of bioethanol as a "clean, green" fuel is a misnomer. Against the siren call of the biofuelophiles, which temptingly intimates we don't actually have to change our lifestyle to survive as a species, we in the Green Party say true green solutions to the huge threat of climate change involve reusing old vegetable oil, small-scale biomass burning for heating, installation of solar-heating systems, erection of wind turbines, investment in wave and tidal power systems, implementation of energy-efficiency measures, and reducing demand for energy (by taxing airline fuel fairly, and by introducing a carbon rationing scheme to reduce unnecessary air and road transport), and not industrial-scale biofuels.



Sir: I am in complete agreement with Duncan Law (Letters, 3 April) that emissions reductions are essential if we are to prevent the devastation that climate change will cause. But he is mistaken in thinking there is no place for carbon offsets. Destruction of forests and the associated release of carbon through burning and decomposition accounts for a quarter of all anthropogenic carbon emissions. By protecting and regenerating forests we will be helping to counterbalance this effect.

Unlike some other offset providers, the World Land Trust's carbon-balanced programme first aims to ensure businesses and individuals requesting offsets are given comprehensive advice on reducing their emissions. Second, as a conservation charity, our carbon-balanced programmes are linked firmly to the preservation of biodiversity.

It is unrealistic to think people will stop flying. And although technological improvements to reduce reliance on fossil fuels look promising, we are a long way off a time when hybrid cars are affordable for all. At present, protection and expansion of forests, our major carbon sink, is essential and it would be foolish to rule out carbon offsetting as a useful contribution to combating climate change.



Sir: I note that the Government intends to offset the costs of all their flights by making a payment to agencies working on reducing carbon emissions in developing countries (report, 4 April).

Does this mean the UK taxpayer will pay twice, once for the trip and again for the offset? I would much prefer many trips were not made, or that cabinet ministers and senior civil servants paid the offset themselves.



Sir: Bob Harris (Letters, 5 April) claims population growth is the single biggest cause of climate change. Yet we don't damage the environment by existing, we damage it by consuming. In which case, a fairer, more effective alternative to infanticide, war or bird flu would be to limit individual incomes. I suggest £5,000 per person per year, confident Mr Harris will be the first to volunteer for this scheme.



Dignity in care must be standard

Sir: As principal users of the NHS, older people have been the principal beneficiaries of our record NHS investment ("The great betrayal: how the NHS fails the elderly", 27 March).

We know 100 per cent of all hospitals that treat stroke victims now have specialised stroke services, there has been a five-fold increase in cardiac treatment for the over-75s, a 29 per cent increase in cataract operations and a 19 per cent increase in hip replacements.

There have also been significant increases in health-prevention measures for the over-65s, with increased breast screening, flu vaccination and smoking cessation.

We have also had major investments in community services with delayed discharge from hospital cut by more than two thirds and we have met our target on supporting older people to live independently at home. But access to care is not enough:; dignity in care must be the standard setting.



Sir: Your leading article (27 March), is right that the NHS is not solely to blame for the carelessness society shows older people, but as the place where the most vulnerable people of any age congregate in large numbers, its attitudes mirror and highlight that of society as a whole.

If behaviour toward older people is the result of a tectonic shift in societal attitudes, then catastrophe theory dictates there is no going back. So it is up to us now to reform societal perspectives and improve life. Pressure groups did it with homophobia and feminism so surely we should be able to do it with regard to ageism.

It is up to us to re organise our culture and prove that it is possible to live as vital, attractive beings, not dour waxworks. Let's begin the great age debate and make sure worthwhile ideas are turned into practical, energising means of worthwhile living.



Children start school too early in life

Sir: The education consultant Sue Palmer confirms what holistic educators have been saying for years, that children can't be expected to learn to read and write unless they can first speak and listen ("How art of conversation between parents and children has died", 3 April).

There are many reasons for this, but a major one is the Government's reduction by stealth of the school starting age, meaning that children as young as four are having far less time to develop the requisite foundational skills before they are haplessly forced into developmentally inappropriate formal learning.

Until sanity is injected into the system, with children starting formal schooling at six to seven (routine in Steiner education and much of continental Europe), this malaise in child behaviour and learning will continue , no matter how many desperate "initiatives" our clueless politicians throw at the problem.



Costs of amnesty on illegal immigrants

Sir: The Institute for Public Policy Research's claim that giving an amnesty to illegal immigrants would net the Exchequer £1bn (report, 31 March) is based on simplistic assumptions. Many illegal immigrants are working under false identities so have tax and NI deducted automatically by employers; those who do not pay tax are unlikely to volunteer to do so.

With regularisation would come an increase in demand on unemployment benefit, tax credits, the NHS and so on, all of which would cost the state money (which the IPPR fails to take into account). Finally, when these low-paid workers retire they are unlikely to have a private pension, so the state would have to support them for a couple of decades in their dotage.

It is highly unlikely that the Exchequer would gain financially from an amnesty of illegal immigrants.



Baby milk in the developing world

Sir: I am writing in response to remarks made about Nestlé and "its alleged role in promoting powdered baby milk in the developing world" ("Anita's £652m sell-out",' 18 March) .

Nestlé follows all countries' implementation of the WHO Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes 1981, which sets out the ways in which baby milk can be marketed. We do not advertise or promote infant formula in the developing world; we do not give incentives to health workers to promote our products; we do not have pictures of babies on our packaging; and we do not give free supplies to hospitals unless requested to by governments in very special circumstances.

GES Financial Services, northern Europe's leading analysis house for socially responsible investments, made an independent report on the infant food industry and the WHO code. This found that Nestlé far outperforms competitors in having the most detailed policies and mechanisms to comply with the WHO code. Nestlé achieved top ratings in three key areas: policies on the provision of the WHO code; programmes to ensure the marketing of infant formula is in line with the code, and compliance and third-party verification measures.

An annual survey of 200,000 people in 20 countries by GlobeScan found Nestlé to be among the top companies spontaneously named as socially responsible, particularly in the developing world. Reports of so-called boycotts are without substantiation.



Queen's coronation

Sir: Question 1 of "Ten Questions" (The Games Page, 5 April) asks in which year was the Queen's coronation. The answer is given as 1952. Although Elizabeth became Queen in that year when her father died, her coronation was on 2 June 1953. I still have the commemorative coin presented to me at school by Lambeth borough council to celebrate.



Serious crime

Sir: One point your leading article on the Serious Organised Crime Agency (4 April) failed to mention is that its existence destroys the rationale for the proposed mergers of police forces. It is argued this will enable them to cope with serious organised crime, the very crimes Soca is being set up to cope with and for which it will, presumably, assume the responsibilities from these forces.



Water idea

Sir: We have a drought in the south-east of England. In central Europe, there are devastating floods. Why can't someone build a grid of pipelines, as they do with oil, gas, and electricity, and share the water resource across Europe. The Americans have done it in southern California; why can't we do it here? It has to be a win-win situation. Plentiful water across Europe, and a pan-European job-creation scheme in one go.



Road manners

Sir: I live just up the road from John Gummer (The Monday Interview, 3 March) and in 30 years have never needed a 4x4. Many roads in rural Suffolk are not so much "rough" as narrow. I have found one positive in meeting 4x4s on our many single-track roads. I stop in the road and wait for them to justify at least one of their claims to exist by getting "off-road". I then thank them politely and drive on.



Novel friendship

Sir: I, too, can thoroughly recommend Flush by Virginia Woolf ("Other books to get your canines into", 1 April) but I am not sure Elizabeth Barrett Browning could be described as the author's friend: she died in 1861, 21 years before Woolf was born in 1882.



First and foremost...

Sir: I notice that repairing cars at the roadside is "the ultimate priority" for the AA ("Anger at AA's exclusive deal with garage chain", 3 April). I wonder what the AA's first priority is.