Socialite, television and radio talk-show host and former UNICEF chairwoman Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes seems relaxed when she invites me into her 30th story office in Ramat Gan’s Rogovin Tower. Immaculately dressed – as befits both the scion of the Mozes clan, which owns Yediot Aharonot, and the wife of Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom – she exudes the confidence that comes with great personal success.
Sitting on a sofa in her parquet floored inner office, her head propped up on her hand as she answers questions, Nir-Mozes begins by discussing her reason for granting this interview, which she says is to discuss her new television show, Moadon Hamevakrim. It’s on Reshet (Channel 2) every Wednesday and Thursday,” she plugs. “What we do there is we go to places, read books, watch movies and we criticize and give our opinions.”
Nir-Mozes, the sole Likud voter among the show’s four critics – one of whom is Arab and two of whom are Meretz supporters – says that she and her compatriots are unafraid to state unpopular, divergent and politically incorrect opinions on the air.
“We don’t have any sponsors,” she explains. “This allows us to say what we want.”
The show consists of both cultural and social commentary, and Nir-Mozes jokes that there soon may be many venues that do not want the Moadon Hamevakrim quartet around, for fear of lampooning.
Nir-Mozes, who was recently at the center of a controversy due to comments she made on Twitter regarding the conduct of Operation Defensive Shield during her brief tenure at UNICEF, says she was not always a member of the national camp.
“The first time I voted for the Likud, in order to vote for my husband, Silvan Shalom,” she recalls, “I thought the sky was falling.” A former dyed-in-thewool member of the political Left, NirMozes felt that she had to support her husband, whom she wants to see in a senior ministerial position in the next government.
Shalom, she says, should be granted either the defense, treasury or foreign affairs portfolio, although, she reminisces, it was sometimes an unpleasant experience when her husband served as finance minister in the past.
“There were weekly protests outside our house,” she says.
Her transformation from a reluctant first-time Likud voter to a sometimes controversial nationalist activist came,she states, when she saw the efforts made by successive right-wing governments to compromise and reach peace.
One such effort, she says, was the Gaza disengagement. The 2005 unilateral withdrawal led by Likud prime minister Ariel Sharon was one of the hardest things MK Silvan Shalom ever had to vote for, his wife says.
“It was a nightmare for my husband to vote for the disengagement but in the end, for the 1 percent chance for peace, he did it. He is very sorry about it because nothing good came out of it.”
Nir-Mozes says that she currently sees no partner for peace, either in Hamas or in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and that she is thus adamantly opposed to making concessions. However, she says, while it might anger the religious Right, if there ever was a true partner for peace, she would be willing to give up vast tracts of land.
But, she cautions, only if there was a “real” partner with whom Israel could negotiate in good faith.
The Right, she says, has been “making efforts for peace.” There have been initiatives “that people know about and those that they don’t.”
“In my opinion,” she says, while being careful to note that her husband disagrees with her, “I don’t care if we give everything for a real peace that will lead to an end to fighting.”
NIR-MOZES’S expression turns stormy and her gentle demeanor becomes slightly attenuated when she begins to discuss her turbulent relationship with UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Appointed to represent UNICEF in Israel last October, Nir-Mozes caused consternation among that organization’s higher-ups when she made two social network posts commenting on Israel’s war against Hamas’s rocket attacks in November.
In her first post, Nir-Mozes stated that “There is nothing I value more than human life. How is it possible to make peace with people whose children are fed hatred towards Israel from the moment they are born? How is it possible to make peace with people who have it in their DNA to hate us? I am willing to make real peace at any price. The problem is that there is no partner. I wish I was wrong.”
In a later post, Nir-Mozes stated that she hoped that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would “continue the operation until the last terrorist is murdered in Gaza.”
In a related Tweet, she called for the IDF to “destroy Gaza if they don’t stop shooting.” If the people of Hamas have to suffer in this way, she stated at the time, maybe they will take action against Hamas.
Accusing Hamas of causing harm to the children of Gaza, Nir-Mozes also stated that “We’d be happy if the children are evacuated. It’s time to stop the abuse [of the Palestinian children].”
UNICEF took umbrage at her words, demanding that the organization’s Israeli branch strip Nir-Mozes of her title and position. In response, she quit.
UNICEF, she says, is an “anti-Israel” organization. Moreover, she says, she is “very disappointed” to see that UNICEF’s Israeli branch did not stand up and “fight for their right to choose whoever they want to run UNICEF in Israel, and especially when we are talking about the wife of the deputy prime minister of their country.
“I think they should say ‘don’t interfere with us and don’t tell [the wife of the deputy prime minister] what to write on Facebook, because this represents what people in Israel feel.’” The anti-Israel sentiment in UNICEF, she says, is manifested in its response to an initiative of hers to bring publicity to the organization by bringing toys in its name to the children of Sderot during the recent conflict.
“I brought toys to children in Sderot and I said that I’ll bring toys in the name of UNICEF. I wanted to bring UNICEF publicity. On the way South, I got a call saying that UNICEF is not willing for me to bring toys to these poor children in their bomb shelters in their name. ‘You are not allowed to use the UNICEF name,’ they said.
“I asked why not. The UNICEF officials in Geneva said I needed to get an okay from UNICEF east Jerusalem to bring toys to the children of Sderot. It’s crazy. The east Jerusalem office said, ‘No, we don’t want you to bring toys to the poor children sitting in the bomb shelters.’” “This was a very big red flag for me but I decided to ignore it, and then afterwards I wrote these statements about Hamas. I wrote that Israel should kill the killers. I didn’t say we should kill people. I didn’t say we should kill children. I said we should kill the killers in Gaza. I wrote that we have to go after the people who are killing us and creating a bad situation for their own children. That’s what I wrote.”
Returning to the topic of her television show, Nir-Mozes speaks about Lucy Harish, one of her co-stars. Harish, a former Channel 10 reporter, is one of the few Israeli Arabs who come from Dimona and wants to be a CNN anchor, Nir-Mozes says.
She says she wants to catapult Harish to national fame to help make her dreams a reality. And while they don’t always see eye to eye on political matters, the honest give-and-take, as free and politically incorrect as Nir-Mozes’s Tweets, is what, she believes, makes for good television – and a vibrant democracy.