Labor race will have no debate

Candidates Amram Mitzna and Shelly Yacimovich both ruled out a formal debate, "We don’t need such circuses."

September 6, 2011 07:57
2 minute read.

Shelly Yacimovich. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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No American election would be complete without a debate between the candidates to help voters decide whom they prefer.

But in Israel, formal debates have become extremely rare.

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There hasn’t been a major election with a formal debate between all the candidates in a race since incumbent prime minister Shimon Peres faced off against challenger Binyamin Netanyahu in May 1996.

Next Monday’s Labor leadership race will be no exception after candidates Amram Mitzna and Shelly Yacimovich both ruled out a formal debate against the other three candidates, MKs Isaac Herzog and Amir Peretz and venture capitalist Erel Margalit.

“We don’t need such circuses,” the Mitzna campaign said. “They don’t serve anyone but the press. When the candidates attack each other before the TV cameras, it makes the party look bad and harms its image.”

A spokesman for one of the candidates said more bluntly: “If we had the American culture of politeness, maybe it would be different, but here in Israel, the media isn’t satisfied unless there’s blood.”

The Yacimovich campaign declined to give a reason for avoiding a debate but a source close to Yacimovich said she would have agreed to the debate if all four of the other candidates would have been on board.

Both channels 2 and 10 have tried unsuccessfully to organize debates.

Dana Weiss, who hosts Channel 2’s Meet The Press program Saturday nights, hasn’t given up efforts to find a format that would enable all five candidates to come together.

Even getting all five candidates to speak at the same event has been difficult over the course of the lengthy campaign. But all the contenders are set to speak at Wednesday night’s Labor convention at the party’s headquarters in Kfar Saba.

The convention will be held immediately after a court case that could result in the election getting delayed. Margalit will ask the Petah Tikva District Court on Wednesday afternoon to delay the primary for technical reasons.

Labor asked the court on Monday to reject Margalit’s case because it was too soon before the election and because he had not gone through the proper channels inside the party before turning to an external court.

“I am working to save the honor of the party, its members and voters,” Margalit said. “Labor must hold a fair and democratic election.”

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