Political parties debate the future of Israel

Seven candidates address controversial issues, Israel’s strengths and elections.

Seven of Israel's top political candidates debate the impending elections on Sunday night in Jerusalem.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Seven of Israel's top political candidates debate the impending elections on Sunday night in Jerusalem.
Candidates from Israel’s political parties debated the future of the country and the upcoming elections at a debate hosted by The Jerusalem Post and Beit Avi Chai.
The candidates discussed why audience members and viewers should vote for their respective parties and also attempted to give clarity on where they hope to take the country in the future.
Representing the New Right Party, former Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick said that she “thinks Israel needs to change its policies” of the last 26 years, adding that it’s “time to abandon a two-state” solution.
She said that it is time to work towards applying Israeli law to Area C. “We need to protect our country – to protect the western half of Israel and prevent a terrorist state from developing next to Highway 6,” which is the Trans-Israel Highway.
Glick added that this is why she joined the New Right.
Ruth Wasserman, from Blue and White, said that there “are people from the Left and the Right” in their party.
“It’s the epitome of Israel,” because it shows that Israeli “society works together.”
“Life is not perfect,” but the Blue and White Party is a “coherent space to deal” with the many issues facing the country.
She said that there has been a decrease in the mutual respect and one-to-one relationship. “Pluralism was the epitome of Israel and it needs to be a continued discussion,” she said. “There has to be mutual respect.”
Several of the candidates said there needs to be reform in the health and education systems and that the elderly in the country need to be taken care of.
Meretz representative Uri Zaki told the audience that voting Meretz is the safest option, “if you want [Benny] Gantz to be prime minister” because “it’s all about the blocs” and coalitions that are formed after elections.
Zaki stressed that for Israel to be successful, there needs to be a clear separation between state and religion.
However, Union of Right-Wing Parties representative Davidi Ben-Zion disagreed, saying that Israel is a Jewish state and that this must come first before it being a democracy.
During the debate, he also said that his party would rather be in the Knesset with Otzma Yehudit than out of the Knesset “without them.”
“Otzma Yehudit may have a different style, but they have points like me [that I believe in]. They believe that this is a holy state... and they believe the IDF must be strong... We would rather be in the Knesset than outside without them,” he said.
He added that education also needs to be improved in the country.
Labor's Michal Biran said that her party will go for whatever “we can to make the course of Israel a better place.”
“No other Western country has a situation where two million people live and they don’t have citizenship or their own state,” Biran said, referring to the plight of the Palestinians and the push for a two-state solution.
Eli Hazan, representing the Likud at the debate, said that he “truly believes in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
“From 20, 30, 40 years ago [to now] there are big differences,” Hazan highlighted. “There is no perfection. It's legit to have complaints, but I like to look at the positives.”
He said that the GDP in Israel was really high and that the gap between the poor and rich has shrunk in the last 20 years. He also mentioned that the Likud is focused on increasing and improving the quality of life of the country’s citizens.
Hazan also expressed strong support for Netanyahu. “I truly believe in Netanyahu. He will be here for many years to come,” adding that it was thanks to the prime minister that Romania is moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
Kulanu representative Roy Folkman said that the “current politics in Israel are being pushed to the extremes and we came to work.”
He said this was why they chose not to take part in the Central Elections Committee vote regarding Otzma Yehudit and its candidates being allowed to participate in the elections.
“I was put in charge of the working plan. It’s not our job to say who can or cannot be elected,” adding that the Right shouts at the Left and the Left shouts at the Right, and “the Central Elections Committee has nothing to do with who can or cannot be elected to Knesset.”
Folkman also stressed that Israel has a moral army that is not afraid.
“Calling soldiers afraid delegitimizes the IDF; it’s the wrong attitude. I am a combat soldier and a field medic, and I was never confused [to know] when I was supposed to shoot or when I was supposed to treat someone. The IDF is a moral army – we know how to act.”