Peres versus Netanyahu: Television Wins the Debate, Israel 1996



At 10 o’clock in the evening, on 29 May 1996, as election ballots closed, the news anchors on Israeli television announced: According to the television sample polling, Shimon Peres has won the election for Prime Minister by a two per cent margin. However, during the long night which followed, as the real results from the various ballots accumulated, this tiny advantage shrank gradually. By next morning it became clear that victory had changed hands, making Netanyahu the winner, with a 14 900 votes advantage over Peres. This virtual tie between the two candidates had been established on 27 May, two days prior to the election, following the only television debate between the two candidates for Prime Minster on 26 May. On the eve of the debate the polls still showed the small but steady advantage Shimon Peres had over Netanyahu in the polls. Two days later, on 27 May, the most popular tabloid Yediot Achronot (read by 70 per cent of Israelis) came up with a verdict ‘Netanyahu was more convincing’. The next morning, with 24 hours to go, Netanyahu closed the gap in the polls, equalizing the two camps. Shimon Peres, at 72 years old an experienced political leader, Prime Minister in office, and the architect of the Oslo peace accord, who took over the premiership following the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin, lost to Biniamin Netanyahu, a 46 year-old, inexperienced politician, known for his telegenic qualities only.


Prime Minister Election Campaign Personal Question Direct Address Extramarital Affair 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

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