Channel 2 News is attempting to organize a televised debate among the leaders of the various parties running for the Knesset in the March 17 elections.
On Tuesday, the network invited via text message all the leaders of the parties to the debate.
The invitation reads, "Just before the citizens of Israel go to the polls to determine the future of the country, we believe that, as is customary in the world's largest democracies, there should be a true and deep dialogue with the public, culminating in a public debate in which the main issues that pertain to Israeli citizens will be discussed."
"We at Channel 2 are going to host the debate, even if not all party leaders answer the call – though we hope they all do,” the message said.
So far, the following party leaders have accepted the invitation: Yitzhak Herzog (Labor), Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home), Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), Zehava Galon (Meretz), Eli Yishai (Yachad-Ha’am Itanu), Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu), Aiman Ouda (joint Arab list), Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) and Aryeh Deri (Shas). However, Herzog's message hinted that he would attend such a televised debate only if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will participate.
As for Netanyahu, he has not yet responded to the invitation. Recently, Channel 2 News anchor Yonit Levi and political correspondent Amit Segal conducted an interview with Netanyahu in which they brought up the idea of a debate, but Netanyahu declined to respond to the idea.
In addition to Netanyahu, Ya’akov Litzman of United Torah Judaism has yet to respond to the invitation as well.
It should be noted that televised debates ahead of elections were held in Israel prior to the elections for the 9th Knesset and before the next five elections. In 1999, however, Ehud Barak declined to participate in a debate (he ultimately went on to defeat Netanyahu in the elections). Subsequent prime ministers continued to refuse to do so as well, leading to the cancellation of the practice.
Herzog has been for several weeks calling on Netanyahu to take part in such a debate, calls that Netanyahu has ignored.
On Sunday, after his calls for a debate were unanswered, Herzog personally posted a challenge to a debate on Netanyahu’s Facebook page.
“So Bibi, I have not yet received an answer. Are you, the prime minister who has failed in every possible field over the last six years, afraid to debate me on the really important issues – with all the people of Israel?” wrote Herzog.
“Bibi, the public awaits,” he added.