Three party leaders agree to pre-election debate

Three party leaders agree to pre-election debate

Labor chief conditions participation on that of prime minister, who has yet to accept invitation

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Shelly Yachimovich (photo credit: Michal Fattal/Flash90)
Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Shelly Yachimovich (photo credit: Michal Fattal/Flash90)

Three prominent Israeli politicians have agreed to face each other in an open debate before the upcoming elections, but two of the most important names have yet to finalize their participation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not respond to the invitation and Labor Party head Shelly Yachimovich said her participation hinged on Netanyahu’s willingness to take part in the forum, which would be held at Tel Aviv University on January 1, three weeks before people head to the voting stations.

Kadima head and opposition leader Shaul Mofaz, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman and Yesh Atid founder Yair Lapid all accepted the invitation by the Citizens’ Empowerment Center in Israel, which is organizing the debate.

“The Israeli public is interested in an open debate between the politicians,” the invite stated. “A televised debate is the best way to reveal the visions of the parties and politicians, to increase transparency and promise the accountability of the nominees toward the voters. A democratic country should have a public debate that allows the voters to get a direct impression of the candidates and make an informed decision about the vote they cast.”

A spokesperson for opposition leader Mofaz said a debate was needed “for the public to see the differences between Kadima and the Likud.” The press release also poked at Netanyahu’s silence on the matter, saying “any decision to hide from the electorate is caused by fear.”

Lapid, a political newcomer, would be happy to participate “in any public debate” that will provide an opportunity to “engage in a substantial discussion about the topics troubling Israeli citizens and the need to change the political system,” his office said.

The foreign minister believes open and public debates are positive, and the specifics of one debate or another will be examined, Liberman’s office stated.

Israel has held pre-election debates a number of times, but not since 1999.

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