FM challenges Bibi, Barak to debate

Livni says rivals "exploit threats against Israel" so public "opts for a strong leader, preferably a man."

livni 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
livni 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel's annual business conference became a stage for political horn-locking on Monday as Foreign Minister, Kadima leader and prime-ministerial hopeful Tzipi Livni challenged Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister and Labor leader Ehud Barak to an impromptu debate. Livni called her political adversaries, both also speaking at the conference, to the stage. A debate did not materialize, but before long Barak began returning verbal slingshots at Kadima's leader. Netanyahu preferred not to comment. When speaking about bureaucracy, Livni told Barak "in my military service I handled bureaucracy." Barak shot back: "You were a part of [that bureaucracy]." "You can't keep still, can you? They said you weren't nice," Livni stabbed, referring to Labor's bumper sticker campaign which brands Barak as "not nice, but a leader." Continuing her assault on both Barak and Netanyahu, Livni said "some politicians exploit veritable threats against Israel as a means to terrify the public, so that it would opt for a strong leader, preferably a man, perhaps a magician who can solve the economic crisis and bring regional peace." "A petty political culture has taken root here and the public is justifiably sick of it," Livni added. She said that teaching core subjects to haredi pupils should be a top priority of the government's educational agenda and turned to Netanyahu: "Are you with me, Bibi?" "When you discussed the economy, you were always convincing, even when you pushed extreme economic ideology. You know what? Even when you cut funds from the education budget you had convincing explanations, just as you are convincing now when you offer a free academic year," she said , referring to Likud's statement that a Likud-led government will subsidize one year's tuition to every student who has completed IDF service.