A reporter for the Israeli news outlet Haaretz discussed Israeli politics and journalism at an event in the Media and Public Affairs Building Tuesday.
The event, organized by GW Hillel, featured Amir Tibon, the D.C. correspondent for Haaretz. Tibon, who started working for the outlet about two years ago, shared his thoughts on the outcome of the upcoming Israeli election and the anticipated indictment of Israel’s prime minister.
In case you missed it, here are some highlights:
Israel’s upcoming elections
Tibon said Israel’s parliamentary system differs from that of the United States because instead of electing representatives, voters elect parties into power. He said the upcoming election in April will pit two major factions against each other: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud Party against the centrist Blue and White alliance.
Tibon predicted that although the two factions would “hit very hard at each other” during the election, the outcome will ultimately be a coalition government between the two with a “strong centrist element” that will “calm down a lot of the tensions with the Jewish community.”
Netanyahu’s alleged corruption
Tibon said the election will be complicated by pending charges of corruption against Netanyahu. Tibon said Netanyahu allegedly paid bribes to media outlets like Tibon’s former employer Walla!, an Israeli web portal, to manipulate media coverage in his favor.
He added that journalists at Walla! spread the story to other media outlets and attempted to rebuke the influence.
“There was strong pushback from journalists who worked in the website, by the way, right-wing and left-wing – not an ideological issue, a journalistic independence issue and doing our job,” Tibon said. “Sometimes we were successful at pushing back – other times, we failed, and the moneyed interests took over.”
He said Netanyahu will likely be indicted in the near future on at least two corruption charges. But he added that there is a debate whether the prime minister must resign from office under those circumstances.
Political fault lines in Israel
Tibon said Netanyahu’s recent invitation to a far-right political party called Otzma Yehudit, Hebrew for Jewish Power, sparked outrage among America’s Jewish population, the largest Jewish community outside Israel.
“We saw the most powerful pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, come out against it and organizations that usually don’t criticize Israel come out against it,” he said. “If Netanyahu goes out into a pure right-wing religious coalition, that tension with the American Jewish community would probably reach new heights, and it would be a very challenging time.”
Tibon also discussed security issues, which he said constitute 95 percent of discourse in Israeli politics. He said tensions between Israeli Defense Force soldiers and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories – the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem – are attributable to the constant threat of violence from terrorists in Palestinian lands against Israeli forces.
“At the end of the day, there is a situation where, if you serve in constant friction with civilian populations and there is this constant threat of being shot, being injured, being killed, it’s very hard to keep moral standards,” he said. “We need to somehow end this situation where we have soldiers patrolling Palestinian cities, villages and towns.”