The left-wing Molad think tank filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Yair Netanyahu for defamation over a Facebook post by the prime minister’s son slamming the group.
In the suit, which was filed with the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, Molad accused Yair Netanyahu of seeking to “shame” the group through what it said are libelous accusations.
“[Yair Netanyahu] committed an injustice against the plaintiff in a terrible, cynical, despicable, evil and uninhibited manner in order to try to shame the plaintiff, ‘spill its blood,’ harm its good name and reputation, sabotage its operations and humiliate it publicly by publishing ugly falsehoods that don’t have an iota of truth,” the suit said.
Molad also accused Yair Netanyahu in the suit of making “cynical and cruel use” of his father Benjamin Netanyahu’s status as prime minister to incite against the group.
In addition to seeking NIS 140,000 ($39,000) in damages, the suit calls for Netanyahu to apologize and delete the Facebook post.
Molad sued after Yair Netanyahu accused it of serving a radical left-wing and anti-Israel agenda after the group posted scathing criticism of the prime minister’s son last week on the Facebook page of its “Sixty One” initiative.
Titled “5 facts about Yair Netanyahu, our national son,” Molad’s post castigated the prime minister’s son for living at the taxpayer’s expense, taking lavish vacations with an entourage of state-funded security guards, seeking to influence his father, and encouraging the boycott of Arab-owned businesses.
Netanyahu, who was already in the news over an incident the previous Saturday in which he allegedly refused to clean up after his dog, hit back at Molad, saying in a Facebook post that Sixty One’s accusations were “lies.”
He accused Molad of being a “radical, anti-Zionist organization funded by the Foundation for the Destruction of Israel [a reference to the New Israel Fund, in a Hebrew play on words] and the European Union.”
“How nice that your side is always going on about incitement, demonization, character assassination and crossing of all red lines,” he wrote, before signing off with emoji of a middle finger and poop.
The emoji referred to Saturday’s incident at the dog park, during which a woman said Netanyahu junior flipped her the bird after she asked him to clean up his dog’s excrement.
Netanyahu in his post also claimed he was being unfairly singled out, as the children of former prime ministers were not subject to the same scrutiny.
Molad issued a swift response to Netanyahu’s post, calling on him to apologize and remove it or face a libel lawsuit. He refused, instead posting several more attacks on the group on his page in the ensuing days.
Last week, lawyers for Molad informed the Netanyahus’ attorney of their intent to sue the prime minister’s son. The letter said Netanyahu’s posts about them “had no iota of truth to them” and as a public figure, he was causing “damage to the reputation of the organization.”
The lawyers’ letter also asserted that Molad was not receiving support from the New Israel Fund. In March 2016, the organization had declared it would no longer accept money from the NIF due to the fund’s subsidies for “non-Zionist” groups.
Molad contended that Netanyahu’s attacks, specifically the “anti-Zionist” jab, were part of a wider effort to delegitimize the organization in the public sphere.
Netanyahu’s post also drew ire and the threat of a lawsuit from the son of former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
In his complaint of unfair media scrutiny, Netanyahu had alleged that Ariel Olmert had carried on an illicit affair with a Palestinian man, one that could have “national security implications.” Olmert hit back in a Facebook post of his own, leveling harsh criticism at Netanyahu for his lavish lifestyle and threatening to sue him for “disseminating false, racist and homophobic slurs.”
“I’ve never lived at the prime minister’s residence, I don’t have a driver or guards paid for by the state, I also don’t hang out with billionaires,” Olmert wrote, flatly denying that he was gay and had ever had a Palestinian partner.
“I actually have to work for a living and I make an effort to pick up my dog’s poop,” he added.
Responding to the lawsuit on Tuesday, Yair Netanyahu’s lawyer Yossi Cohen called it “delusional” and said it was an attempt to silence his client.
“A body that pretends to be liberal and pluralistic first slandered the son of the prime minister and is now working by means of an aggressive silencing lawsuit in order to deny him the right to respond,” Cohen said. “We will easily repulse this delusional lawsuit and will of course take corresponding legal steps.”
Tamar Pileggi contributed to this report.