Ex-journalists prominent on Israel Labor list

AP News
Posted: Nov 30, 2012 9:25 AM
Ex-journalists prominent on Israel Labor list

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's Labor Party will be fielding a large number of former journalists in the country's upcoming parliamentary elections.

Six former journalists, including party chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich, figure among the top 25 labor candidates who will be running in the Jan. 22 parliamentary race. The party held its primary on Thursday and released the list of candidates on Friday.

Many of the former journalists in Labor's ranks are social activists who think the government should be doing more to help the middle and lower classes. Yachimovich, a former TV and radio commentator, has revitalized the flagging party, which led Israel to independence in 1948, by refocusing its emphasis on the country's social and economic problems.

Several leaders of last year's grass-roots social protests, which drew hundreds of thousands of Israelis into the streets, were also voted into top positions on the Labor slate.

Polls showing Labor winning about 19 of parliament's 120 seats, compared to the party's current eight. That would make it the second-largest party after the Likud Beiteinu list headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Labor is not alone in drawing journalists to its ranks. Popular prime-time TV personality Yair Lapid quit his job this year as a television newsmagazine anchor to form his own political party, Yesh Atid. Another high-profile commentator, Ofer Shelach, has joined his party.

Israel's parliament currently has 11 former media people in its ranks.

Analysts say the recent surge of journalists-turned-politicians reflects in part a desire for new blood in a political scene long dominated by the same faces. Their social activism comes as a refreshing change from the corruption scandals that have tainted a swelling list of politicians.

At the same time, the media stars have the advantage of being both new and familiar.

Others, however, have questioned whether the phenomenon isn't hurting news coverage by compromising its professional bedrock, impartiality.