Gantz: I Won’t Debate Netanyahu; PM: You’re a Coward

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (R) and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz at a memorial ceremony marking 24 years since the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, in the Knesset on Nov. 10, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Blue and White head Benny Gantz said Wednesday that he was turning down Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s invitation to a debate, which was made directly by Netanyahu in interviews on Channels 12, 13 and 20 Tuesday night. “This is just another election spin,” Gantz told party MKs at a meeting Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t plan to take part in it. This is a party I don’t plan to attend.”

The challenges were made by Netanyahu Tuesday night in a series of interviews with Israeli media. Speaking on Channel 20, Netanyahu said that the debate should be conducted “directly, without notes or teleprompters. I am prepared to come here or anywhere to debate you,” Netanyahu said, addressing Gantz. “We’ll say what we have to say, what we have done and will do for Israel. We should have several debates like they have in the U.S., one about security issues, one about the economy, one about matters of state. Only neither of us can have earphones” with advisors providing answers to questions.

Gantz immediately responded on social media, saying that Netanyahu “is panicking. You got nervous when you heard that a date was set for the beginning of your trial, so you are creating a new spin? On March 13 you are going to court, and Israel is going to move forward” with himself as Prime Minister, Gantz wrote.

Responding to Gantz’s statement Wednesday, Netanyahu said that “Gantz is afraid of a debate, and he knows why. Israel needs a strong leader, not a coward. Israel needs a strong right-wing government, and not one that will answer to the United Arab List. If Gantz is afraid to come to a debate how will he handle the challenges facing Israel? I am repeating my call – Gantz, come and debate me.”