The head of the Jewish Leadership (Manhigut Yehudit) faction in Likud, Moshe Feiglin, has accepted a challenge from Jeremy Gimpel and Ari Abramowitz of the Jewish Home (HaBayit HaYehudi) to a debate – except he wants to debate Naftali Bennett instead of Ari and Jeremy.
The idea began rolling when the Jewish Leadership newsletter quoted an e-mail conversation between a Feiglin supporter and Gimpel, regarding the divergent paths chosen by the religious Zionist parties on one hand, and Feiglin's faction on the other. While the religious parties believe change can best be effected through party politics in the Knesset, Feiglin believes in changing the ruling party, Likud, from within, through internal party politics.
Gimpel and Abramowitz then challenged Feiglin to a debate, in a public e-mail message.
"Our dear friend Moshe Feiglin," they wrote Wednesday. "We read the private email conversation between your supporter Martin Ingall and Jeremy Gimpel that was published in your weekly email newsletter.
"Then we had a thought. This is an important question in the upcoming elections – not only for those signed up for the Likud, but for all voters who are struggling to understand the best way to get involved and help shape the future of our country. Instead of publishing personal email correspondences, why not put people behind those podiums and debate the issues?
"It will be a friendly debate fueled by mutual respect and Ahavat Yisrael. We like and respect you, Moshe, and your movement, Manhigut Yehudit, but we do fundamentally disagree with the strategy you are taking to affect, influence and shape the future of the State of Israel. We are running for Knesset with a different strategy."
"Our friend Moshe, please accept our call for a real public televised debate for the sake of Am Yisrael. We will have a neutral journalist moderate the debate. Let us come together and debate this very important issue. You name the time and the place, and we will be there!
"May the best Jewish idea win."
Shmuel Sackett, co-founder and International Director of Manhigut Yehudit, replied later that day:
"Earlier today, our good friend Jeremy Gimpel, challenged Moshe Feiglin to a debate (see email below).
"I am proud to announce that Moshe has agreed to this debate, with two conditions:
"Condition #1: The debate is to be between Moshe Feiglin and Naftali Bennett.
"The reason is clear. Moshe Feiglin is running for the head of Likud. Jeremy Gimpel is running for the 'Young Leadership' spot on the Bayit Yehudi Knesset list – spot #5 - which is considered by most pollsters as an unrealistic Knesset spot.
"Naftali Bennett, on the other hand, is running for the head of Bayit Yehudi. Therefore, let the debate be between the two people running for the head of their respective parties.
"Condition #2: The debate is to be in Hebrew. While we respect the English speaking audience in Israel, an important debate such as this one cannot be limited only to English speakers. Israelis across the country must hear this debate and be active participants.
"Of course, the debate will be video-taped and once it is over, Moshe will personally finance the translation into English, Russian and French and post it all over the internet with the proper subtitles.
"Since it is now summertime, with many people away, the recommended date for this debate should be in the beginning of September.
"Kol Ha'Kavod to both Jeremy Gimpel and Ari Abramowitz for this idea. This is a perfect example of why they were just honored by Moshe Feiglin with 'The Young Leadership Award' at the recent Manhigut Yehudit USA dinner in June.
"We welcome this initiative and look forward to having it become a reality."
The conversation, while friendly, was a bit of a political sparring match. Ari and Jeremy apparently hoped to boost their status as leaders within the Jewish Home by debating Feiglin. Feiglin, for his part, appears to have parried the dynamic duo's thrust and thrown the ball into Bennett's court, whereas Bennett's position on the idea has yet to be heard. Both the Jewish Home and Feigin may feel they have something to gain by not including the second religious Zionist party, the National Union, in the debate.
Ari and Jeremy recently hosted both Jewish Home head Minister Daniel Hershkowitz and challenger Naftali Bennett in front of an English speaking audience in Jerusalem.