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Conversation with David Horovitz

“That fundamental atmosphere of hostility to Israel, that refusal to accept the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty, has to change on the Palestinian side.”

By Judie Jacobson


David Horovitz

David Horovitz

David Horovitz is the founding editor of the online newspaper The Times of Israel. He previously served as editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post, before stepping down in July 2011 after almost seven years, and editor and publisher of the award-winning newsmagazine The Jerusalem Report.

In his writing and lectures, Horovitz often seeks to promote intra-Jewish tolerance and to urge the Israeli leadership to devote more attention to the struggle for Israeli legitimacy on “the second battlefield” – in the media, the legal arena and diplomatic forums.

Horovitz has written from Israel for newspapers around the world, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Irish Times and (London) Independent. He is a frequent interviewee on CNN, the BBC, Sky, Fox News, NPR and other TV and radio stations. He also lectures widely in Israel, the United States and Europe on Israeli current affairs, regularly giving the introductory briefing on Israel to Congressional delegations brought to Israel under the aegis of AIPAC.

He has conducted landmark interviews with a succession of Israeli and international figures, including all of Israel’s recent prime ministers, Presidents Barack Obama (when he visited Israel as a candidate in 2008) and George Bush, as well as Tony Blair, Vladimir Putin and Paul McCartney.

The author of Still Life with Bombers: Israel in the Age of Terrorism (2004) and A Little Too Close to God: The Thrills and Panic of a Life in Israel (2000), Horovitz also edited and co-wrote The Jerusalem Report’s acclaimed 1996 biography of Yitzhak Rabin, Shalom Friend, which was published in 12 countries and won the U.S. National Jewish Book Award for Non-Fiction. He was the recipient of 2005’s JDC award for journalism on Israel and Diaspora Affairs, and is a previous winner of the B’nai Brith World Center award for journalism.

Horovitz immigrated to Israel from London in 1983, where he lives with his wife, Lisa, and three children.

David Horovitz will present “Israel’s Challenges in a Fast Changing Middle East,” a discussion on current events, the U.S.-Israel relationship, and economic- and defense-related challenges facing Israel on Monday, June 9, 7 p.m. at the Mandell Jewish Community Center in West Hartford. The event is hosted by the American Technion Society, the Mandell JCC, the Jewish Federations Association of Connecticut (JFACT), and the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federaton of Greater Hartford.

The Ledger interviewed Horovitz from his home in Israel.


Q: Why did you create The Times of Israel? What need did you recognize that it filled?

A: I saw a need for a news site that reports Israel and the Jewish world independently, fairly and as honestly as possible, combined with an open blog platform on which everybody with something of value to say can weigh in and be part of the dialogue. The audience is everybody who cares about the well-being of Israel, the region and the Jewish people.


Q: Now, two years down the road, do you see the publication as fulfilling its mission?

A: The Times of Israel has succeeded far beyond expectation. It’s the fastest-growing and one of the largest sites in the Jewish world. We have well over two million unique readers coming to the site every month and it keeps growing. We have literally thousands of bloggers and the platform remains open to everybody, and this has all been achieved through word of mouth – people who love the site telling other people about it. I think this is because the content is written as professionally and fair-mindedly as we can, on a free website that is a pleasure to navigate, with a team here at The Times of Israel who are deeply invested in our work and believe that what we are doing makes a difference.


Q: Last week, you announced the creation of a Chinese edition – what prompted this? What role do you see The Times of Israel playing in the burgeoning relationship between Israel and China?

A: As we speak, the Chinese site is less than two days old and off to a very good start. Its focus is largely on high-tech, innovation, scientific breakthroughs – the spheres at the heart of the deepening Israeli-China relationship. Here, we’re in a unique area. There is no other site written in Chinese covering this material.


Q:  You’ve interviewed an impressive array of Israeli and international figures. Do you have a favorite interview?

A: Obviously, when you interview people who are shaping our world, these are the high stakes and fascinating conversations. It was clear to me in 2008 when I interviewed then-candidate Barack Obama in Jerusalem, that he saw himself as a friend of Israel but, for better or worse, a friend who had no particular empathy for the notion of an Israel extended beyond its pre-1967 lines. That’s what I gathered from him at the time and I would argue that this thinking has been at the core of his presidency.

One of my favorite interviews was Paul McCartney, who was so sweet, actually worrying that his audience in Israel might not be familiar with some of his material. But that was also one of my lousiest interviews because I neglected to ask him about the impact of Judaism on his life, given that his beloved Linda was Jewish and thus their children are. I don’t think anybody’s ever asked him about this. So, next time…


Q: It was reported last week that former Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz is blaming American over-involvement in the Israel-Palestinian negotiations for derailing the peace talks; saying that the American initiative only increases the difficulties and that there must be face to face negotiations between the two parties. He also does not rule out talks with Hamas. Your thoughts?

A: Israel needs an accommodation with the Palestinians, but the notion that the United States could strong-arm the two sides into a deal in nine months was always plain silly, and I’m being polite here. Israelis kick out prime ministers who they fear are missing out on opportunities for compromise. The Palestinians oppose leaders who so much as hint at the possibility of compromise. I’m not saying the Israeli side is perfect. Really not. I wish we stopped building in West Bank areas we do not envisage retaining. But that fundamental atmosphere of hostility to Israel, that refusal to accept the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty, has to change on the Palestinian side. And you do that by promoting hierarchies that encourage moderation and tolerance and by marginalizing hierarchies that encourage extremism. That’s how the United States and the international community should use their leverage and their money. Then you’d have the people on both sides pushing their leaders towards compromise. And peace talks would be straightforward.


Q: Your Hartford talk is on the topic of “Israel’s Challenges in a Fast Changing Middle East” – can you give us a brief preview of what you plan to discuss?

A: Let’s just say that our region is spectacularly unstable and the only thing you can predict with confidence is that it will continue to be unpredictable for the foreseeable future. I’ll go into the specifics when I’m in Hartford. I look forward to my talk there.


Q: Your talk here is being hosted by American Technion.  What role does Technion play in meeting Israel’s challenges in the fast changing MIddle East?

A: The Technion is more central to Israeli innovation, entrepreneurship and business growth, I’d wager, than any other single academic institution in any other Western country. It’s the key incubator of Israel’s relentless and astonishing capacity for innovation, original thinking and achievement – all of which is crucial to Israel’s very existence.


“Israel’s Challenges in a Fast Changing Middle East,” a talk by David Horovitz; Monday, June 9, 7 p.m., at the Mandell JCC, 335 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford. Free and open to the community.  For reservations contact the American Technion Society at technion.bos@ats.org or (617) 964-0048.


Comments? email judiej53@gmail.com.

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