Both sides claim to win Israeli election debate

Israel election grfk

May 26, 1996
Web posted at: 10:50 a.m. EDT (1450 GMT)


From Correspondent Jerrold Kessel

TEL AVIV, Israel (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and his challenger, Benjamin Netanyahu, both claimed victory on Sunday in their one and only debate three days before national elections.

Journalists were barred from reporting details before the 30-minute taped debate was shown Sunday night on Israeli television, but details leaked out in Israeli radio reports and in interviews with political aides who watched the taping.

CNN will show the debate at the same time it is seen on Israeli television -- 1:30 p.m. EDT (1730 GMT).


Each side claimed to have won. But as expected, neither one managed to deliver a knockout, Israel Radio's political Correspondent Yaron Dekel said. "The bottom line, I think, is that it's a tie."

Peres, the 72-year-old Labor party leader, vowed to continue the peace efforts of his assassinated predecessor, Yitzhak Rabin, while Netanyahu, the 46-year-old Likud party chief, hammered away at Israelis' lack of security, according to Reuter news service.


Undecided voters

The debate could be a deciding factor in the close election May 29. Although various polls show Peres ahead by 4 to 7 percentage points, an even higher number of Israeli voters have not made up their minds.

"I really feel I need to know a lot more," said one Israeli woman. (191K AIFF or WAV sound)


Pollster Hanoch Smith told CNN Peres could be helped by crossover voters who went for the Likud Party in previous elections, but are switching back this year to support the peace policies of the Labor Party.

Opinion polls had shown Peres leading by more than 20 percentage points until four suicide bombings killed 59 people in Israel in February and March.

"I did fine, I feel fine," Peres said after the debate. His Justice Minister, David Libai, told Reuters: "Mr. Peres showed his experience and his determination and, therefore, from my point of view, Mr. Peres really won his debate."

Netanyahu said the debate reinforced his beliefs: "If I thought that we were going to win before this debate, I am now sure after the debate that we will win."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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