Moshe Feiglin challenges Naftali Bennett to debate

Manhigut Yehudi spurs religious Zionists to join Likud; Candidate Feiglin requests debate from chairman of Habayit Hayehudi.

August 2, 2012 04:18
1 minute read.
Moshe Feiglin.

Moshe Feiglin 311 . (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Three-time Likud leadership candidate Moshe Feiglin requested a debate Wednesday night with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s former bureau chief Naftali Bennett, who is running for the chairmanship of Habayit Hayehudi.

Feiglin’s Manhigut Yehudi (Jewish Leadership) movement has spurred thousands of religious Zionists to join the Likud so they could have an impact on the ruling party. But since Habayit Hayehudi started a membership drive and a leadership primary, Likudniks have been heading back to the former National Religious Party.

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Jeremy Gimpel and Ari Abramowitz, two candidates for Habayit Hayehudi’s Knesset slate who have been especially effective in persuading Likud members to leave, challenged Feiglin to a debate Wednesday morning. The challenge came after a private email Gimpel sent to a Feiglin supporter was published on Manhigut Yehudit’s website with a lengthy response under the headline: “Likud or Jewish Home (Habayit Hayehudi) – a Friendly but Serious Debate.”

In a letter to the 15,000 people on his email list, Feiglin responded Wednesday night by agreeing to a debate – but not with Gimpel. He instead challenged Bennett, so the debate would be at the level of party leadership candidates.

Feiglin said the debate should be held in Hebrew, and offered to translate the video at his expense into English, Russian and French.

“We can’t limit such an important discussion on where religious Zionism is headed just to English speakers,” said Shmuel Sackett, Manhigut Yehudit’s international director and co-founder.

Gimpel said he would have been been happy to debate Feiglin or Sackett in Hebrew or English any time, anywhere.

He said he would encourage Bennett to accept the request.

“Although I respect Moshe Feiglin as an individual, the strategy of Manhigut Yehudit has failed,” Gimpel said. “The Likud today is more left-wing than the Likud of [former prime ministers] Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin.

The only way for the religious-Zionist movement to set the country’s agenda is to strengthen a united national-religious camp. We will win the debate because we are right.”

Bennett’s spokesman said he would consider it.

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