Posted By RichC on April 19, 2010
Letter from Mike Tobin:
“… this trip is the one that ends more than half a decade of living in Jerusalem and moves me back to the US. It is with no small amount of doubt that I packed my bags and left the Middle East. The threat of a conflict with Iran is still out there. Gilad Shalit has yet to be released by his Hamas captors. Hizbollah has re-fortified its weapons stockpiles on Israel’s border. Any of these factors could spark a major news event. It’s hard to explain the mindset of a reporter, but as horrible as these events could be, I’d hate to miss a chance to cover it.
However, 6 and a-half years ago, I shook the hand of one of our network VP’s, promised to do at least 2 years in Israel and fell in to the trap so many US Presidents have. I got studied up on the Israel/Palestinian conflicts and reached the conclusion that the solutions were easy; draw some lines on the map, make some compromises and everyone moves on to a better future. That is why we saw both President Clinton and President Bush make a concentrated effort on the conflict at the end of their terms. It seems like an easy win. I foolishly thought I could be the guy who could stand there and announce to the world ‘It’s over.’ Everyone leaves frustrated.
The flaw in the thinking comes at the compromise. All parties are painted into a corner and so concerned about the perception of weakness that they cannot make a move. Taking the lead from President Obama, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas put out his ultimatum: ‘No peace talks without a freeze on settlement construction’ and now he can’t back down. Prime Minister Netanyahu can’t stop building for fear the right wingers in his government will leave his coalition and his government will be toppled. The way Roger Cohen wrote it in the New York Times, “Day by day, square meter by square meter, the physical space for a second state, Palestine, is disappearing.” Sitting here today the two state solution seems out of reach.
I’ve watched the lives of Palestinian families go from limited to miserable. I’ve watched Israelis protectively pull themselves into a shell like turtles fending off an attack and I’ve watched journalists covering this conflict slip into bitterness, alcoholism and worse. People talk about conflict journalists suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome because of the violence they witness. The violence never got to me. It’s the hopelessness that breaks your heart.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d never trade the experiences gained over the last 6 years and I’m grateful to Fox News for presenting me with the challenge. Through it I’ve gained the friendship of brave people like Jennifer Griffin and the crew out there. We went through the good, the bad and the ugly. We were rocketed, mortared, shot at and stoned together. We froze on the hilltop and sweltered in the desert. When some got married, we danced at the weddings. When others had babies, we attended the christening/briss together. While we covered everything from Christmas to Kytusha rockets, we argued, had heart to heart talks and always found occasion to laugh so hard our ribs got sore.
Moving forward, I think I’ll be able to serve you much better from Chicago. My humble beginnings as a broadcaster came in 1986 as a disk jockey in a bar there on Division Street. I’ve been a spectator to bare knuckles Chicago politics before. That region has a talent for producing red-meat type of news. Reporting from the same side of the globe, I’ll be able to hit Greta’s show without staying up till 5 am. And if the boys start playing rough overseas again, I’ll be first to put my hand up and ask for a plane ticket.
In the meantime, take a look at the spoof video the Jerusalem crew put together for my departure. Slathered in an extra helping of machismo, it should give you an idea of the sense of humor we shared out there.
All the best and thanks for all your feedback, it put a lot of wind in my sails.