Jerusalem Post journalist explains Israeli politics to BYU students

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An Israeli journalist from the “Jerusalem Post” addressed two groups of BYU students March 6 during a whirlwind tour of the American West.

Gil Hoffman is a Chicago-born journalist who became an Israeli citizen mid-career and now covers national politics from Jerusalem. During his U.S. tour, he mostly visited synagogues but took a detour to visit BYU and UVU. Joel Campbell, a BYU journalism professor, said this was because a BYU intern at the “Jerusalem Post” made a good impression.

Gil Hoffman is a journalist from the Jerusalem Post who spoke on Israel's challenges, elections, and dislike of journalists while at BYU. Photo by Joel Campbell.
Gil Hoffman is a journalist from the Jerusalem Post who spoke on Israel’s challenges, elections and dislike of journalists while at BYU. (Photo by Joel Campbell.)

Samantha McKenzie, a communications minor, attended the lecture to hear a journalist’s perspective of life in Israel. She would love to visit the country but is concerned about safety, so she listened to Hoffman describe his adventures there instead.

“The only profession respected in Israel less than politics is journalism,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman spoke on the Israeli election in Jan. 2013 when Israelis surprised the world by electing a moderate, rather than right-leaning, government. The primary issue in Israeli politics is Palestinian conflict, and so “right” government would have had a more warlike attitude toward national security. Hoffman said that the parliament and the cabinet, which Prime Minister Netanyahu will appoint next week, will be split fairly evenly because Israelis voted for the party with the economic policies they wanted. This could be a promising sign for peace in the Middle East.

Hoffman suggested that the election was influenced by a huge protest movement for more affordable housing.

“It’s the first time Israelis voted with their wallets,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman also said that Israelis voted to decrease the influence of religious parties in Israel.

“Israel is surprisingly not a very religious country at all,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman compared American politics with Israeli elections as well — Israel has 34 viable political parties to America’s two, but Israeli elections last for only three months instead of three years. He added that Israel would rather act now to set back Iran’s nuclear plan, while America would rather wait until the opportune moment to act more decisively.

“We are not long-term strategic thinkers like Americans,” Hoffman said with a smile.

Still, foreign policy debates between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama during the presidential campaign proved how intertwined Israel and America are.

“They only mentioned three countries — China, Iran and Israel,” Hoffman said. “And it was clear that both of them liked us best.”

Hoffman said that although Israelis have no preference either Democrats or Republicans — both George Bush and Bill Clinton were popular — they do not trust President Obama.

He cited Obama’s “obsession with settlements” and bad relationship with Netanyahu as one reason why Obama will have to regain Israel’s trust before he canmake peace between Israel and Arabs.

Hoffman questioned some U.S. policies in the Middle East, such as its failure to support the pre-Arab spring democratic uprising in Iran and giving financial aid to Egypt to demilitarize the border between it and Israel.

“In spite of the fact that we’re surrounded by states that would prefer Israel not exist, we’re thriving,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman’s passion for his job and country does not preclude his family interests. At one point he opened up his phone to a picture of his two children to show off what he considered to be “the face of Israel.”

“I have two full-time jobs,” Hoffman said. “One is following around Netanyahu and the other Israeli politicians, and I have another job following around my children.”

The journalist, whose grandparents were Holocaust survivors, described living in Jerusalem with his family as “a blessing from God that I don’t take for granted.”

Hoffman is on Twitter @Gil_Hoffman and www.jpost.com.

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