Israeli election candidates weigh debate proposals


Israel’s General Election could be spiced up by a televised debate between party leaders.

Yesterday evening, Channel 2 invited all of the party leaders to a televised debate. Within a few minutes, the Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog, Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett, Meretz’s Zahava Gal-On, Shas’s Arye Deri, Avigdor Liberman of Israel Beiteinu, Kulanu’s Moshe Kahlon and Yachad’s Eli Yishai all confirmed that they would join, raising the prospect of a televised election  debate for the first time for at least 16 years.

However, things quickly became less clear. After Prime Minister and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu declined to respond to the invitation, Opposition leader Isaac Herzog appeared to back away from his commitment to appear, with sources saying he would only participate in a debate if Netanyahu joined, and possibly only a head-to-head with himself and the Prime Minister only.

Herzog had challenged Netanyahu to a head-to-head debate a few days ago, in a video posted on social media, saying “Why don’t you want to debate me? Are you afraid of me? Are your advisers telling you ‘don’t debate him?’ Look, I just want to talk. You and me, in front of all the people of Israel.”

Rival broadcaster Channel 10 is also trying to organise a debate, and it seems likely that some form of debate will be broadcast but that a debate which features Netanyahu remains unlikely.

In other election news, petitions to ban two candidates from the election are being heard by the Central Elections Committee. Different groups are attempting to disqualify the Joint Arab List’s Haneen Zoabi and Yahad’s Baruch Marzel for extremism. The Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein is opposing the disqualification attempts. The Central Elections Committee’s decision is not final; in previous elections, Zoabi was disqualified and then reinstated by the Supreme Court.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid promised to nationalise the Jewish National Fund while his party released an “anti-viral video” as a response to the short viral campaigning videos used by other parties. The dry three-hour long YouTube video features a man reading out the party’s claimed achievements in Government while a painter in the background creates a mural.