Netanyahu-Lapid Debate Edging Closer

YERUSHALAYIM -

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid appeared closer to a debate on Tuesday.

Netanyahu told a conference sponsored by Channel 20 that he would face off with Lapid—if, that is, they can agree on a moderator for the event.

If it happens, it will be the first such debate between an Israeli prime minister and an electoral challenger since 1996.

Until now, Netanyahu has conditioned a debate on Lapid openly avowing that he is running for prime minister. Even though Lapid has still not done so, Netanyahu seemed to be relenting, though it remains to be seen what will come of the new condition.

Coalition and Likud faction leader MK Miki Zohar taunted Lapid on his Twitter account: “Lapid, do not be afraid. A debate with the Prime Minister will illustrate the difference between the leader of the right and the leader of the left. It is good for the public to know that the left is claiming to crown you as the prime minister without experience and with a poor record in the public positions in which you have served, while the right asks the public to allow Netanyahu to continue in office with his proven experience and historic achievements.”

Meanwhile, Lapid continued his appeal for support on the center-left at the expense of smaller parties in his bid to topple Netanyahu.

Speaking at a press conference, Lapid warned that failure to give Yesh Atid victory over Likud would enable Netanyahu to form a “racist…extortionist government.”

“If you want to make a big change, you need a big party to do it,” Lapid said, estimating that at least 10 of the Knesset’s 120 seats could be determined by currently undecided voters.

Officials from Labor and Meretz have said this week that they will recommend Lapid for prime minister after the March 23 elections.