Israel, Athens

Shlomo Avineri's hope that Israel might "still try to be an Athens, not a Sparta" in an unfriendly Middle East (Editorial Pages, Jan. 20) is not as reassuring as he might want it to be.

Athens was the Greek city that sent the disastrous expedition to Sicily during the Peloponnesian War, not unlike Israel's controversial march into Lebanon. In great part due to this ill-fated invasion, Athens eventually lost the war with Sparta.

Friends of Israel must therefore take with mixed feelings present-day expressions by Israeli politicians that Israel be like Athens.

WILLIAM E. JOHNSTON JR.

Woodland Hills

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