Apropos of nothing, it occurs to me that there is an interesting trend on the left side of Israeli politics for the most prominent politicians to be journalists. For decades the Israeli political scene was dominated by soldiers turned politicians, and looking around today – Netanyahu, Barak, Ya’alon, Mofaz – that clearly still holds, but while Labor used to be headed by people such as Yitzchak Rabin, Barak, Amram Mitzna, and Fuad Ben-Eliezer, it is now led by Shelley Yachimovich, a former radio and television news personality. Tommy Lapid, the man who made Shinui relevant, was a journalist, and his news anchor son Yair Lapid is poised to found a new political party that will likely be the second or third largest party in the Knesset.
I’m not entirely sure how to explain this shift, but it is probably related to the death of the peace process and the evisceration of the peace camp. When the Israeli left was preoccupied with the question of the Occupied Territories, it made sense to have military men at the helm. Having a decorated general lead Labor gave it instant credibility on defense issues and reassured Israelis that any negotiations with the Palestinians were undertaken with Israel’s security needs at the forefront. After all, who was going to seriously challenge battle hardened men like Rabin or Barak on their understanding of Israel’s security needs? Now, however, there is broad consensus on both the right and the left that negotiations with Israel’s enemies and withdrawal from territories gained in past wars leads not to peace but to rockets, and leftist parties like Labor barely bother to even challenge the right on defense issues. After all, Barak brought Labor into the Netanyahu coalition in order to serve as defense minister, which speaks volumes about the salience of defense and peace issues on the left. Instead, Israel’s left and center-left parties are pivoting to social issues, which is the province of journalists rather than warriors. It is one of the reasons that seeing Shaul Mofaz rush to claim the mantle of social justice protests is so jarring, and my guess is that Mofaz is the last of a dying breed of generals leading political parties on Likud’s left rather than an indication of a military renaissance on that side of the spectrum.
Anyone else have any thoughts on why journalists are all of a sudden jumping to become politicians?