Herzog and Netanyahu Fight over Iran and Jerusalem

Haaretz says, while there has been no official election ne debate between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main challenger, Isaac Herzog, the two did have a few words yesterday on Channel 2’s Meet the Press.

After interviewing Herzog in the studio, host Rina Mazlia spoke to Netanyahu over video link. “Why do [Herzog and Zionist coleader Tzipi Livni] condemn the construction in Jerusalem? Why don’t they offer support when I am fighting to remove threats like the Iranian nuclear weapons? Netanyahu asked, adding “Why do they refuse to say they support the massive security effort we are undertaking?”

Responding, Herzog said: “Israel’s security of Israel is more important to us than anything else. We knew how to defend. The one who makes Jerusalem the main focus even though no one talks about its division is Benaymin Netanyahu.”

Netanyahu ignored Herzog’s question about whether the head of the party with the most votes should be asked to form the next government, pressing his previous point. “If Jews have no right to build in Jerusalem, where do they?”

Netanyahu went on to say that Herzog and Livni were “unwilling to step up and take a real stand to protect [Israel’s] security interests. When the time comes and the prime minister faces a test,” he must refuse to withdraw to the 1967 borders”.

“The international community knows you’re weak and doesn’t accept your position. The Palestinians have identified your weakness and that’s why they’ve taken an international measures,” Herzog reported.

Netanyahu repeated his claim that there is a “huge international effort with huge amounts of money” – involving “left-wing organizations and elements in the media” to replace him. When Mazliah said he had also been helped by “foreign money”, He said, “That is not true.”

‘I provided leadership’

“People recognize we’ve done great things,” he said, including making free education from from age 3, cutting electricity rates and raising soldiers’ wages.”

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Netanyahu added: “I provided leadership – while global economies were collapsing we allocated billions for education for 3-year-olds. That’s a phenomenal sum, in addition to aid for Holocaust survivors. We’ve done a lot and much remains to be done.”

Mazlizh reminded the premier that he has “a villa in Caesarea and another house in Jerusalem. You live in the official Prime Minister’s residence and you are funded head to toe by the state. Do you understand how the hardscrabble public finds it difficult to read the Comptroller’s report about wastage of public funds?”

“The same report also speaks of a dramatic reduction in expenses and lessons that were drawn,” Netanyahu answered. “Our record of achievements is so great.”

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So why doesn’t the public support you, Mazliah pressed him. “That’s precisely the point. I am liked, the public prefers me to continue to lead by many percentage points over my rival,” Netanyahu retorted.

When asked about recent opinion polls showing Likud trailing the Zionist Camp by several Knesset seats, Netanyahu said there was “a real concern that if we don’t close the gap in the next few days Herzog and Livni, supported by Arabs and leftist non government organizations, will form the next government.”

Mazliah pressed on: “You attack the media with all the means at your disposal. I don’t want to use the term whining. If you really care for the country’s citizens why isn’t there massive support for you, why are you busy attacking the media?”

“First of all this isn’t an assault on democracy,” said Netanyahu. “The media is merciless in its attacks. Its role may be to criticize the government but it does things selectively. I’m telling you that you’re wrong in what you just said. Most of the public wants me to continue. They think they have the privilege of voting for other parties.”

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“Will you again create an unstable government,” the host asked, “a bit from here and a bit from there?”

“I don’t think so,” Netanyahu said. “If the public gives Likud more power I can form a stable government with the national camp. I obviously will include all the natural partners. I regret that Moshe Kahlon hasn’t yet declared his support. I’ll give him a senior economic post. Finally, Netanyahu was asked if he would retire should the Likud win less than 20 seats. “I’m focused on the Likud winning, on me and my colleagues’ victory,” he said.

Earlier on the show, Herzog said he was convinced he will be elected as Israel’s next prime minister on Tuesday.

“These elections are a choice between despair and hope,” he said. “The Israeli public is sick of Netanyahu, and knows I am the only one that can take the helm and replace him.”

Out of the loop

When asked whether he agrees with Netanyahu on Iran’s nuclear program, Herzog said their disagreement over the way to address the issue, not the fact of the strategic threat itself. Netanyahu is “out of the loop” in terms of intelligence and decision-making on Iran “because he went head-to-head with the United States,” Herzog said.

Liebererman: Odeh is liar and a traitor

The leaders of the other major parties also appeared on the show. Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman, who entered the studio as a Joint List head Iman Odeh was leaving, called the leader of the alliance of historically Arab parties “a liar and a traitor.”

Lia Van Leer

Lia van Leer, a recipient of the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement, founded the cinematheques in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, died yesterday 90 years old. She had managed the Jerusalem Cinematheque and the Jerusalem International Film Festival for decades, and was among the foremost contributors to the advancement of film and film education in Israel.

Van Leer was born in Bessarabia, Romania in 1924 (or 1920, according to some accounts). She came to Mandatory Palestine in 1940 to visit her sister, who was living in Tel Aviv. World War II broke out, and the news reached her of her parents’ death. She decided to stay, and studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She then met Wim Van Leer, a pilot, a lover of cinema and the son of a Dutch industrialist and philanthropist.

After getting married in the early ’50s, the couple moved to Haifa. They began acquiring movies on 16 mm film from abroad and screening them for friends in their home. When they saw that demand for quality cinema was on the rise, they founded a film club in Haifa, which was joined by more than 200 members and held screenings every two weeks. A year later, Lia Van Leer founded two similar clubs in Tel Aviv in Jerusalem.

In 1960, Van Leer founded the Israel Film Archive. In 1973, she founded the Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem cinematheques. The following year the Van Leers relocated to Jerusalem, where she managed the theater, turning it into one of the city’s most prominent cultural institutions.

In 1983 Van Leer served as a judge in the Cannes Film Festival, and consequently decided to establish an Israeli version. The inaugural Jerusalem International Film Festival was held the following year.