Israeli Politicians Balk at Televised Debate

Invitations to a debate scheduled for January 1 have been sent out to all party leaders, but no invitee has confirmed they will take part.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

A debate among leaders of the major political parties has been scheduled for January 1 ahead of the elections - but it is entirely possible that none the candidates will show up.

The Citizens Empowerment Center in Israel and the Siah Ve'Sig debating society announced at a news conference on Tuesday that they invited all the major party leaders, and that they expect the debate, to be held at Tel Aviv University, to be televised.

Representatives of the organizations said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not responded to the invitation. Labor Party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich said she would take part only if Netanyahu did.

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said he would debate if the only politicians invited were the heads of the largest parties - in other words, if Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz, whose party is slipping in the opinion polls, accepts the invitation he's received, Lapid will not be there.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu, said he would agree in principle to take part in a debate, but did not relate to a specific debate at Tel Aviv University.

The invitation states that "the public in Israel is interested in an open debate between the heads of the parties. A televised debate is the best way to reveal the vision of the parties and the candidates, to increase transparency and to ensure responsibility on the part of those elected. ... Recently we have seen the responses to debates in the election campaign in the United States and this is the time to adopt that model in Israel."

The organizers did not approach former Kadima leaders Ehud Olmert or Tzipi Livni as they have not declared their candidacies.

Yair Lapid, head of the new Yesh Atid party. Credit: Moti Milrod

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