Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich reached across the virtual aisle on Monday
to write on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Facebook page and challenge him
to a debate.
“The time has come for a public debate on important topics
so the citizens of Israel can choose,” Yacimovich wrote, inviting him to a
televised debate as is “accepted in the Western world. A campaign and election
slogans may be an unavoidable necessity, but they cannot replace the real
democratic expression – a debate.”
There has not been a debate between
prime ministerial candidates since the first one, in 1996, when Netanyahu
debated then-prime minister Shimon Peres. Netanyahu refused to participate in a
debate in the following election in 1999, and the precedent has been followed
According to Yacimovich, the real choice is between her and
Netanyahu, Labor and Likud-Beytenu.
“The public deserves it and we are
responsible for a deep, real debate on two worldviews,” she
The Labor leader asked Netanyahu to describe what he planned
to do about a “deteriorating economic situation and widening social gaps” and
reveal his planned budget for after the election. She said she was willing to
debate in any forum or on any date the prime minister
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) responded to
Yacimovich’s challenge on Facebook.
“You want a debate? As accepted in
the Western world? I’m glad you remembered that those are part of the rules of
the game, and now I want to remind you, because you surely forgot, that you
refused to debate when you ran for Labor chairman,” Erdan wrote.
referred to divisions in the Center-Left bloc.
“Anyway, what debate do
you want? Left versus Center- Right? Great, but whom should we debate? Tzipi
Livni? [Meretz chairwoman] Zehava Gal-On? [Yesh Atid leader] Yair Lapid? You?
Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz?” On Saturday night, in televised interviews with
channels 1, 2 and 10, Netanyahu said the public knows the issues well enough to
vote without a debate.
“Nu, I’m debating with you,” he quipped to Channel
10’s Raviv Drucker when asked why he refused to debate.
“A debate is a
great show, but I think the public knows how to decide,” he said. “It knows very
well what will make it decide and who will bring a message of stability, who
will take care of the big problems here.”
Several debates with other
high-profile candidates, like Yacimovich, Livni, Lapid and Bayit Yehudi’s
Naftali Bennett, on topics like the two-state solution, changing the system of
government and other issues, have taken place since the January 22 election was
declared in October, but without Netanyahu’s participation.
Kadima’s Mofaz took to YouTube to challenge someone “who is laughing at us,
tricking us” to a debate.
He was referring to Mariano Idelman, the actor
who portrays both Mofaz and Netanyahu on the wildly popular sketch-comedy TV
show Eretz Nehederet.