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Herzog: I’ll debate Netanyahu anytime, any place

Zionist Union leader says he skipped Thursday’s TV discussion with 8 other party leaders because ‘elections are about unseating PM’

Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog speaking on February 8, 2015. (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog speaking on February 8, 2015. (photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog once again on Friday challenged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a political debate ahead of the March 17 elections, a day after eight other party leaders faced off around a table in the Channel 2 studio.

“He is doing everything to not talk about housing and the cost of living, so I again invite Netanyahu to a debate, on every channel,” Herzog said during an interview with Channel 2.

When asked why he declined to take part in Thursday’s debate, Herzog explained that he was specifically concerned with unseating Netanyahu.

“I did not come for the simple reason that these elections are about the continued service or replacement of Netanyahu (as prime minister),” Herzog said. “I’m the only one who can replace Netanyahu, so I am ready to confront him and talk about Israel’s burning issues.”

Netanyahu, Herzog and United Torah Judaism’s Yaakov Litzman, were the only major party leaders not present in Thursday’s debate. Their calculations were plain: Litzman’s core constituency does not watch television — or at least does not admit in public that it does so. Netanyahu, the frontrunner for premier, feels his participation as an equal in a 10-way debate could only have lessened his standing in the minds of the electorate. Herzog, who seeks to unseat Netanyahu, could not allow himself to be seen as one of nine while Netanyahu was absent.

Foreign Minister and Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor Liberman (bottom L), Yair Lapid, leader of 'Yesh Atid' Party( bottom 2L), Leader of the Yachad party, Eli Yishai (bottom 2R), Leader of the combined Arab list, Ayman Odeh (bottom R), Meretz party leader Zahava Gal On (upper R), Leader of the ultra orthodox Shas party, Aryeh Deri (upper 2L), Leader of Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) party, Naftali Bennett (upper 2R) and Leader of the Kulanu party Moshe Kahlon (upper C) and Channel 2 TV news anchorman, Yonit Levi (upper L) seen before a Channel 2 news political debate ahead of the 2015 Israeli election. in the Neve Ilan studios near Jerusalem on February 26, 2015. (Photo cedit: Channel 2 News)
Foreign Minister and Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor Liberman (bottom L), Yair Lapid, leader of ‘Yesh Atid’ Party( bottom 2L), Leader of the Yachad party, Eli Yishai (bottom 2R), Leader of the combined Arab list, Ayman Odeh (bottom R), Meretz party leader Zahava Gal On (upper R), Leader of the ultra orthodox Shas party, Aryeh Deri (upper 2L), Leader of Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) party, Naftali Bennett (upper 2R) and Leader of the Kulanu party Moshe Kahlon (upper C) and Channel 2 TV news anchorman, Yonit Levi (upper L) seen before a Channel 2 news political debate ahead of the 2015 Israeli election. in the Neve Ilan studios near Jerusalem on February 26, 2015. (Photo cedit: Channel 2 News)

According to a Channel 2 poll following the discussion, 31% of viewers believed none of the candidates gave a definitive winning performance, while 25% said Bennett had won the debate. Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and Kulanu’s Moshe Kahlon followed, tied at 10%.

Fifty seven percent of viewers thought Herzog and Netanyahu were wrong when they decided not to show up, while 33% said they made the right choice. Ten percent said they did not know.

In the interview Friday, Herzog went on to vow that should he be chosen as Israel’s next prime minister, he would focus on solving the country’s housing crisis, healing strained relations with the US, and kickstarting peace talks with the Palestinians.

“If necessary, I will go to Ramallah and I will present to the Palestinian parliament a vision of hope,” he said.

Herzog dodged several questions on whether he would be willing to form or join a coalition government with Netanyahu’s Likud party following the elections.

“The polls show that we have a clear advantage,” said Herzog. “I proved my political skills… I keep surprising people… I know how to form the most stable coalition.”

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