A candidate for the Knesset on the Blue and White slate reportedly faced criticism from his party for bringing up Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s past extramarital affairs during a radio interview.
Ram Ben-Barak, who is 26th on the party slate for Knesset elections next month, spoke to the Kan public broadcaster Thursday morning on reports that Iran hacked the cellphone of Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, and recalled Netanyahu’s alleged — and admitted — past infidelities.
A day earlier Netanyahu had strongly suggested the Iranians retrieved sensitive personal information from Gantz’s phone, compromising his ability to become prime minister. Gantz is Netanyahu’s main rival in the April 9 elections.
“I hear Gantz saying there is nothing embarrassing and I hear Netanyahu saying there is — who to believe?” said Ben-Barak, a former deputy director of the Mossad spy agency. “Someone who cheated on his three wives, who had affairs, and ignores his eldest daughter because his [current] wife doesn’t allow him — or Israel’s 20th chief of the IDF whose credibility and integrity no one has questioned on even the tiniest thing up to this point?”
The Blue and White party responded to Ben-Barak’s comments by demanding he retract them, Channel 12 TV news reported. It also instructed other members to not make such comments.
“We will not descend to this level,” the party told members, according to the report.
Netanyahu has been married three times, and had a daughter from his first marriage with whom he has no public contact. He reportedly had affairs with other women during his first and second marriages before marrying his current wife, Sara, in 1991. Then in 1993, he confessed on live television to having had an affair during his third marriage and said he was prompted to come clean after he was threatened with the publication of a secretly filmed, sexually compromising videotape of himself. No such videotape has ever been published or had its existence confirmed.
Last Thursday Channel 12 news reported Iranian intelligence had managed to gain access to Gantz’s phone and all its contents. A follow-up report on Saturday night said that no sensitive security information had been housed on Gantz’s phone at the time of the breach, but suggested that the incident was “embarrassing” for him.
Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party has sought to use the hack to portray Gantz as unfit to lead the country. Gantz has said the phone did not contain any confidential information and has charged that the leak of the breach to the media last week was politically motivated. Iran has denied it hacked Gantz’s phone.
There have been unsubstantiated rumors that the phone contained salacious material.
In a statement made live to the press from his official residence in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Netanyahu demanded that Gantz publicly reveal what the Iranians may now hold.
“How can you as a prime minister confront Iran, our number one enemy, when it has sensitive content about you?” Netanyahu said. “It’s not gossip, it’s a matter of national security. Gantz, what are you hiding from the Israeli public? What do the Iranians know about you? What material do they have?”
On Tuesday Gantz gave his first sit-down interviews with Israel’s major television networks during which he dismissed concerns over his hacked phone and insisted the affair had been overblown and was politically motivated.
“If people are seeking that I’ll quit, they are mistaken,” he told Channel 12 TV news “I plan to serve the State of Israel,” he said.
He also said that his “wife supports me from here and until further notice.” In another interview, with the Ynet news site, Gantz refused to say what was on the phone other than it was “personal.”