Party leaders call for PM to participate in debate

Date, time, place for pre-election televised debate are set, but Yacimovich, Mofaz will not participate without Netanyahu.

Knesset 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Knesset 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Party leaders are waiting for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s response, ahead of a planned January 1 preelection debate that the Citizens’ Empowerment Center in Israel announced on Tuesday.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu), Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich, Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid all responded positively to the CECI’s invitation to participate in the televised debate in Tel Aviv – though each presented their own terms and conditions.
Netanyahu’s office did not respond to the CECI letter, which the center sent last week, or to The Jerusalem Post’s queries on the matter.
According to the CECI invitation, “the Israeli public is interested in an open debate between party leaders. A televised debate is the best way to expose the parties’ and candidates’ vision, increase transparency and ensure public representatives’ responsibility to the voters.”
A public debate allows citizens to learn about candidates directly and make smarter decisions when they go to the voting booth, the letter explained.
Should the pre-election debate occur, it will be the first one in Israel since 1996.
Yacimovich said she would only participate if Netanyahu were there, and as such, she did not plan to attend the CECI event.
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“Likud and Labor are the two leading parties, and their stances are clearly and sharply opposed, allowing for an ideological, topical debate,” the Labor leader’s spokeswoman said, adding that Yacimovich would agree to any format or location that was convenient for the prime minister.
Lapid said he would only participate in a debate between large parties, and demanded that an empty podium be left on stage to represent whoever did not agree to participate.
The Yesh Atid leader’s spokeswoman said he would be happy “to take part in any debate meant to present his stances and hold a significant political discussion on the topics that concern Israeli citizens, as well as the need to change the Israeli political system.”
Liberman agreed to a debate in principle, but did not commit to participating in the one in January.
“Israeli citizens deserve to hear what those who seek to lead them are offering,” Mofaz said. “I see a great importance in holding a public debate, so the public can see the differences and gaps in the Likud and Kadima worldviews.”
However, the Kadima leader said he would only debate if Netanyahu participated, adding that “any decision to hide from the voters comes from fear of exposing the truth.”