Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely and Labor Party candidate Merav Michaeli went head to head Tuesday night, debating everything from synagogue and state, to the price of housing in Israel. The debate, held by the Tel Aviv International Salon and the largest English debate of its kind, was an opportunity for the members of Israel’s two leading parties to engage the Tel Aviv international community.
Hotovely reiterated her stance against a future two-state solution with the Palestinians, which is in opposition to that of ruling Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and lamented “the failure of the disengagement”. The Likud MK called for Gaza to be part of a confederation with Egypt, adding that she is against the Palestinian state envisioned by Sharon.
“We are not against peace talks, we are against illusions,” Hotovely said, adding that for the past four years, the Palestinians have continuously refused to negotiate with Israel.
Michaeli, however, advocated strongly for a return to the negotiating table, offering the Clinton Parameters and the Arab Peace Initiative as a potential basis for a future peace settlement. The journalist-turned-politician accused current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “strengthening Hamas while stepping on Abu Mazen’s head”, and granting legitimacy to Hamas.
Michaeli was asked to address her remarks in which she allegedly told Israeli parents not to send their children to the Israel Defense Forces. She clarified her comments, which she made on IDF Radio in 2010, saying that she was merely calling on parents to take an active role in public discourse.
“We must demand that the government reach peace before our children must die for war,” Michaeli said.
Both women addressed the absorption of the ultra-Orthodox into the military, and the recent expiration of the Tal Law, adopting vastly diverging approaches to the resolution of this issue.
Hotovely called for the gradual conscription of the ultra-Orthodox into the Israel Defense Forces, saying that the frameworks that have been used for the National Religious community can be adapted to suit the needs of the ultra-Orthodox.
“In my army there is enough room for the ultra-Orthodox to serve and for women to fly F16s,” Hotovely said.
Michaeli, however, claimed that the IDF is not equipped to absorb the ultra-Orthodox, and instead pushed for their integration into the workforce, saying that this is the only way for them to truly become a part of Israeli society. Michaeli further lamented the control of the haredi bloc over state affairs. "[There is] tyranny of the Orthodoxy in Israel. We must separate church and state [sic] and we must recognize other streams of Judaism provide budgets – they are no less Jews than any other Jews."
In her closing remarks, Hotovely thanked the largely international audience for choosing to make Israel their home, and called on them to be ambassadors to their communities for Israel.
Michaeli echoed these thanks, however she also acknowledged how difficult it is for new immigrants to make it in Israel. The Labor candidate promised to work on their behalf “to make Israel a better place for us to live in so you can stay here, and live safely and prosperously.” Hotovely countered Labor's calls to raise taxes on the rich as being "impossible - a Robin Hood legend." She stated that her party's intention was not to control the housing market. "We want to build more – like in Judea and Samaria. And this will reduce prices," she said.
Women in International Security Israel (WIIS) contributed to the security portion of the debate. The Tel Aviv International Salon is a non-profit non-partisan organization dedicated to bringing the top leaders and decision makers in Israel to speak in English to Tel Aviv's community of young professionals, foreign press, and embassy staff. Follow the Salon on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/telavivinternationalsalon