Netanyahu challenges opposition leader Gantz to TV debate

Netanyahu offered to debate Gantz on a series of issues, from security to the economy. Gantz is refusing the offer. 

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu challenged Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to a series of televised debates during a Tuesday evening interview with Boaz Golan, host of Channel 20’s “Open Studio.”

“Gantz, what are you afraid of. Come, let’s debate,” Netanyahu said. “I am ready to come here or somewhere else. We will speak to the public.”

“Let’s talk about the real issues. Without teleprompters. What we have done and what we plan to do for the State of Israel. I invite you to a televised debate,” Netanyahu said, directing his words at his main challenger and looking directly into the camera.

It doesn’t appear that Gantz will take up Netanyahu’s challenge.

The former IDF chief of staff who recently entered politics tweeted, “What happened, Netanyahu? You are alarmed that there is a date for your confrontation with the prosecution witnesses, so you make up spin? On March 17, you go to court and the State of Israel needs to go forward.”

Gantz was referring to the news on Tuesday that the Israeli justice system had selected March 17 as the opening day of Netanyahu’s trial. Netanyahu is indicted on corruption and bribery charges in three separate cases.

Netanyahu responded on Wednesday. “Gantz is afraid of a confrontation and he knows why. Israel needs a strong leader and not a coward. Israel needs a strong right-wing government and not a government that relies on the Joint List,” referring to the Arab bloc.

“If Gantz is afraid to confront a prime minister, how will he withstand the great challenges the State of Israel faces? I call Gantz again. Face me in a debate,” Netanyahu said.

Blue and White MK Yoaz Hendel, in a radio interview on Wednesday morning, said Gantz should refuse the challenge.

“We twice offered Netanyahu a televised debate with Gantz. Twice he passed because he was convinced that all Israelis would vote for him. He is now aiming for a fourth election so he is trying to spin. In my opinion, Gantz should not go into a debate. It will not bring us one vote,” Hendel said.

Blue and White MK Ofer Shelah said Netanyahu was running out of tricks and his offer was an attempt to create a reality show with Gantz.

The only one who showed willingness to debate the prime minister was Avidgor Liberman of the Israel Beiteinu party, who tweeted, “I was glad to finally hear that you’re ready to have a debate. I urge you to debate me before March 2, wherever and whenever you choose.”