The wife of Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett’s walked back her claim that far-right activist Itamar Ben Gvir is a former agent of the Shin Bet security service on Thursday.
Ben Gvir, who ran unsuccessfully for the Knesset several times with the extremist Otzma Yehudit party and frequently represents far-right suspects in criminal cases, had sued Gilat Bennett for libel over the claim.
Gilat Bennett wrote on her Facebook page, “After I checked the facts, I understand that I made a mistake.”
“I withdraw what was stated… that Itamar Ben Gvir was in the past an agent of the Shin Bet. These claims were made without any basis and I regret it.”
She also said she withdrew claims that Otzma Yehudit members had broken into her home near Ra’anana.
She had made the accusations in the run up to the last round of elections, and called the far-right political party “terrorists.”
The about face was apparently part of a settlement agreement with Ben-Gvir, who had sought NIS 250,000 ($73,000) in damages.
Besides apologizing to Ben Gvir, Bennett also agreed to donate money to support Israeli soldiers serving in the West Bank city of Hebron, according to a document submitted to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.
Other details of the agreement between Bennett and Ben Gvir remained confidential, Channel 13 reported.
Ben Gvir wrote on Twitter that he was “happy on the evening of Tisha B’Av that we ended the dispute and signed an important agreement.”
Naftali Bennett was a former ally to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is now in the opposition. Netanyahu had lobbied for right-wing groups to bring Otzma Yehudit into an alliance to avoid votes being “wasted” on a candidate unlikely to cross the electoral threshhold.
Gilat Bennett has previously publicly criticized Netanyahu for his response to the coronavirus crisis and charged in 2018, while her husband was serving as education minister, that Netanyahu used his relationship with businessman Shaul Elovitch to seek negative coverage of Gilat.
Otzma Yehudit feuded with other right-wing factions, including Yamina, during the last several election cycles and failed to garner enough votes to win Knesset representation in the March vote.
In the run-up to that election, Bennett refused to allow Rafi Peretz’s Jewish Home faction into the alliance unless Peretz dropped a promised separate alliance with Ben-Gvir, which he eventually did.
“I will not put in the Knesset a person or a mindset that despises the state and sees the IDF and police as enemies,” Bennett said of Ben-Gvir during one appearance.
The Shin Bet is known to keep tabs on members of far-right extremist groups via a network of informants from within the organizations, which maintain an adversarial relationship with the security service.