Bibi demurs on Israeli debate invite

Leaders of Israel’s major political parties accepted an invitation to an American-style debate, except for Likud leader and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The debate sponsored by the Citizens’ Empowerment Center is scheduled for Jan. 1 at Tel Aviv University, according to the organization’s website.

“We all — left and right, religious and secular, Jews and Arabs — have a clear interest in knowing exactly who we choose and why,” it said.

Party chairs Shelly Yachimovich (Labor), Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) and Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) reportedly have agreed to participate, according to the Israeli media. Yair Lapid, chair of the new Yesh Atid party, also has accepted.

Lieberman said he will participate if Netanyahu agrees to join the debate.

The last political debate was held in Israel in 1999, the second and final time that there were direct elections for prime minister. The leading candidates did not participate. — jta