[by Phyllis Shaikun]
Gil Hoffman, chief political correspondent and analyst for The Jerusalem Post, must have had his running shoes on as he crisscrossed the United States over the past few weeks, updating Jewish communities about what is happening in Israel and what we might expect in the coming days. He stopped by the JCL offices in Louisville on Friday, March 31, for an off-the-cuff interview prior to his address about Israeli security to members of Congregation Anshei Sfard the following day during a Shabbat luncheon celebrating the synagogue’s 118th anniversary.
Hoffman approaches even such heady topics as “Pyramids, Politics and Plutonium: An Insider’s Look at the Quest for Security, Stability and Peace in the Middle East” with optimism and pragmatism with a bit of humor thrown in for good measure. While he might have concerns about whether the international community can prevent the nuclearization of Iran, he has been called the most optimistic man in Israel by Israeli television.
To illustrate the point, his recent article in The Post begins: “The stolen mathematics matriculation exam could have asked the following question: If a group of ships carrying anti-Israel activists and Hamas terrorists are on their way to Gaza from Turkey, how long does it take for Israel to get attacked in the foreign press? The answer would obviously be no time at all.” So what’s with the optimism?
“The singular accomplishment of the founding of the State of Israel and seeing Israel strive to be a light unto other nations gives me confidence in its future,” says Hoffman. There’s not necessarily just war and peace in Israel – our day-to-day life is not tied to our formal borders. The challenges to regional development are there, however. Egypt and its many unknowns are next door, and for the first time in 30 years, Israel could be attacked on all sides now. Yet Israel is a budding technological super power that continues to be model for democracy for the rest of the countries in the region.
From his office in the Knesset, Hoffman feels a tremendous responsibility to convey the news without taking sides. “I know,” he says, “I am writing the first draft on history. What I am writing today will be in the history books tomorrow. I am supposed to know how Israel is thinking and explain its political views impartially.”
With all that has been done to hold democratic elections, he muses, the world still elects dictators. “Real peace,” he says, “functions in a democracy built over time – gradually, from evolution – not revolution. Israel has ideals for the entire Middle East region, and for the past 11 years, I have tried to tell it like it is.
He knows the Obama administration reads the paper since The Post has correspondents in Washington, and he is aware that some stories he has written have had an impact on the administration’s policies. His thoughts on America: there is consensus in Israel that Americans are as polarized as they have ever been – there is no American “center.” As a native Chicagoan, however, he quips there is agreement on one thing – being American and being Jewish means you’re a Cubs fan. “It’s a little like Israel,” he concludes, “it is all a matter of faith, and this is our year.”