Netanyahu Will Debate Opposition — On His Own Terms

YERUSHALAYIM -

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday night that he would accept Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog’s challenge to a debate after he returns from his U.S. trip.

Netanyahu also stipulated that he would only debate Herzog or his running mate Tzipi Livni, who represent the only party with a comparable standing in the polls as Netanyahu’s Likud.

Unlike the U.S., debates between the candidates are not regular campaign fare in Israel. The last major pre-election debate was a broadcast confrontation between Netanyahu and then-prime minister Shimon Peres in 1996, which was thought to have helped Netanyahu to a narrow victory over the frontrunner Peres.

In addition, on Wednesday, nine Knesset party leaders confirmed they would participate in a pre-election debates: Herzog, Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid, Meretz chief Zahava Gal-On, Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett, Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Lieberman, United Arab List head Ayman Odeh, Shas head Aryeh Deri, Yachad party leader Eli Yishai, and Kulanu head Moshe Kahlon.

The announcements were in response to a call from the Israeli media to debate in front of the voters.