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Because it's 2017: A prediction

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A safe New Year's prediction: Donald Trump will make America grate again.

Colin Read, London, Ont.

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Because it's 2017: Mideast diplomacy

The convoluted language of diplomacy in the Mideast file is going by the wayside. Plain talk, for at least a few moments as we enter 2017, is the common currency of communication. So here are a few blunt truths:

1) The peace process is moribund;

2) There is no effective representative Palestinian leadership to engage in negotiations;

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3) Israel has virtually solved the problem of suicide bombers, and has no incentive to negotiate land for peace;

4) As a result, bilateral negotiations between Palestinians and Israel are impossible;

5) Without an internationally mandated intervention to conduct multilateral negotiations, there will be no viable Palestinian state.

Why so? To vary what has be-come an adage: Because it's 2017.

Howard Greenfield, Montreal

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Re Ignore The Noise: Resolution 2334 Has Global Support (Dec. 30): Paul Heinbecker asks, "If the United States were to walk away from the UN, as some suggest, who would shield Israel then?"

The U.S. will never abandon Israel because of the strong lobby group it has there. As proof, witness the $38-billion (U.S.) military aid package to be given to Israel over the next 10 years, as noted in your editorial (Cutting Off The Only Path To Real Peace – Dec. 30).

There is no significant incentive for Israel to compromise and give up the settlements when it has that kind of U.S. military support. Imagine the unimaginable for a moment and a different U.S. tactic – there will be no $38-billion military aid as long as there are more settlements. Instead, the United States abstained from voting on Resolution 2334.

David Enns, Cornwall, Ont.

Editor's note: The original letter to the editor incorrectly said the U.S. military aid package to Israel is $10-billion to be given over the next 10 years. In fact, the 10-year military aid package is worth $38-billion. This version has been corrected.

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Israeli prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert each negotiated with the Palestinian leadership and offered them statehood. The offers involved concessions on settlements, including dismantling many of them. And both of those prime ministers oversaw more new settlement construction than has occurred under Benjamin Netanyahu. Yet you say settlement construction undermines the peace process and stands to make a two-state deal impossible. Israeli settlement construction hinders the peace process only because the Palestinian Authority uses it as an excuse not to come to the table. Resolution 2334 significantly bolsters that excuse and will serve the PA well in its efforts to avoid accepting a state for its long-suffering people.

Daniel Fogel, Toronto

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Objecting to the building of settlements in the West Bank is all very well but one has to accept reality. As long as Israel is flanked by states that deny its right to exist there is absolutely no possibility of a two-state solution.

Passivity to threats had disastrous consequences for the Jewish people and there is no way they are going to follow that path again, regardless of the "rights" or "wrongs" of their action.

D.J. Lloyd, Kingston

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Because it's 2017: Canada and arms

In 2017, Canada will finally join the UN Arms Trade Treaty, and Canadians must put pressure on the government to ensure that this translates into real change in the weapons trade. The tragedy in Syria is fuelled by a constant supply of arms from the West; Canada is the second-largest exporter of arms to the Middle East. This shames me as a Canadian.

The West has been criticized for its "collective inaction" in Syria, but I would argue that the West has been very active, and that we urgently need to consider how our actions in the business-as-usual model of capitalism have contributed to this tragedy.

The arms trade is one of two big areas where short-term, narrow financial interests have trumped social and environmental responsibility and contributed to a cycle of war. Climate change is the other. Both are areas where Canada has acted wrongly, and where by righting our actions we can make a real peace-building difference. Severe ongoing drought exacerbated by climate change significantly contributed to the food shortages that precipitated the war in Syria. Now, the UN is predicting that south Sudan is soon to become uninhabitable due to climate change, and many other regions are at similar risk.

Canada needs to keep its climate commitments, keep the fossil fuels in the ground, and meet our promised funding for climate-change mitigation in vulnerable regions. We need to do everything we can to be a world leader in climate justice, to stop prioritizing blind economic growth over the well-being of people, planet, and peace.

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This is how we can truly help the people of Syria.

Rebecca Weigand, Toronto

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Because it's 2017: A health accord

If the provinces want to improve access to care and reduce pressures on hospitals, they need to in-vest in mental health. Now. Provinces that haven't reached a deal with Ottawa, and that includes Ontario, should accept the federal offer on mental-health and home-care funding and continue to discuss the size of health transfers with the federal government.

The mental-health and home-care investments will increase capacity to provide services in people's homes and the community while reducing pressure on hospital services, a major driver of increased health care costs.

Under the last accord, the provinces failed to make needed investments in mental-health services. For example, between 2004 and 2011, Ontario invested $16.45 per capita in mental health services, while putting $1,361 per capita into other areas of health care. Compare that to Australia, which invested $98.13 in mental-health services, New Zealand's $198 and the U.K, which invested $62.22. Provinces aren't meeting the 2012 health spending targets of 9 per cent recommended by the Mental Health Commission.

Ontario's mental-health share of health spending is some 6 per cent, Saskatchewan's is 5 per cent. Without more funds, wait lists and wait times will keep growing.

In Ontario, young people are waiting up to 18 months for mental-health assessments and services, in Toronto, 2,000 people are waiting up to a year to access community mental-health services. The wait list for supportive housing has over 12,000 names, with wait times of up to seven years.

Steve Lurie, executive director, CMHA Toronto

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Because it's 2017: Canada's envoy?

With Donald Trump about to take over in Washington on Jan. 20, we should have an ambassador there who can match his forceful manner, colourful personality, total freedom from any excessive modesty – and ideally have some show business experience.

Such individuals are rare, but I think we are lucky in having one person who would fully meet all those exacting requirements: Don Cherry.

Andrzej Derkowski, Oakville, Ont.

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