Rabbis and Staff Get the Scoop on Israeli Politics from Gil Hoffman

By Olivia Herstein

"This is the most informed group I’ll speak to this trip,” quipped Gil Hoffman, chief political correspondent and analyst for the Jerusalem Post. Hoffman swung through Los Angeles on his semi-annual tour of the United States, stopping April 25 at the Federation to speak to Israel advocacy staff and members of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. After the luncheon, he spoke in Orange County and to Jewish student groups at UCLA.

In honor of Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, Hoffman briefed the Board of Rabbis and Federation staff on the political climate and its relationship to the upcoming U.S. presidential election, dubbing his topic “Red States, Blue States and the Jewish State.”

“What are Palestinians waiting for?” he asked the group. “They’re waiting for November – everything goes back to the American election. Prime Minister Netanyahu desperately wants President Obama to win because he helps Netanyahu out so much.

“Israelis want a prime minister who can say no to the President of the United States,” said Hoffman, a Chicago native who made aliyah to Israel after graduating magna cum laude from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. “Israelis have this irrational fear of Obama. That is what makes Netanyahu so popular.”

The journalist has interviewed every major figure across the Israeli political spectrum, and he appears as a regular analyst on CNN, Al-Jazeera and other news outlets. Called “the most optimistic man in Israel” by Israel Television, Hoffman offered his LA audience a behind-the-scenes peek at the intrigue and humor in Israeli politics. He joked with the group about proposing a “Mittanyahu Ticket” – presidential candidate Mitt Romney with Netanyahu as running mate.

Addressing a more serious question, “Nothing is going to happen this summer, fall or winter with Iran,” Hoffman predicted. “Next spring, I don’t know. Meanwhile, Israel is preparing to be attacked by Hezbollah – which has rebuilt all its long-range missile stocks to pre-Lebanon War levels (from 2006).”

A reserve soldier in the Israel Defense Forces’ spokesman’s unit, Hoffman has lectured in seven countries and 36 U.S. states. He wrote for the Miami Herald and Arizona Republic before moving to Israel. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and two children.

The journalist spoke to the Board of Rabbis as part of its ongoing Critical Issues Series – activist Anat Hoffman, who directs the Israel Religious Action Center in Jerusalem and is best known for her Women of the Wall group, met with rabbis in February at University Synagogue in Brentwood.

Rabbi Mark S. Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis, and Catherine Schneider, senior vice president for community engagement at the Federation, expressed their gratitude to Hoffman for sharing his optimism and great sense of humor.