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Court hears Yair Netanyahu’s and ex-MK’s mutual lawsuits over Twitter spat

Stav Shaffir suing former PM’s son over disparaging tweets she says were also sexually degrading; Netanyahu seeking damages for her insulting responses

Yair Netanyahu, son of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court hearing on a defamation suit, in Tel Aviv, November 29, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Yair Netanyahu, son of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court hearing on a defamation suit, in Tel Aviv, November 29, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Yair Netanyahu, the son of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was at Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Monday for a preliminary hearing on his mutual defamation lawsuit against past Knesset member Stav Shaffir.

Shaffir, who was not in court, is suing Netanyahu for NIS 260,000 ($82,000) over tweets from an April 2020 exchange between the two, while Netanyahu is suing her for NIS 300,000 ($95,000) over things she wrote back at the time and in other past social media posts.

Later in the day, Netanyahu was expected to be in court for another libel suit, filed by the Crime Minister political movement, which had sought to oust his father from office.

The reciprocal lawsuits stemmed from a sharp exchange between the two in April 2020. Israel at the time was under a strict lockdown that even prevented families from getting together over the Passover holiday, as is the custom. Benjamin Netanyahu, at the time prime minister, posted a photo to his Facebook account of his family celebrating together, including his other son, Avner Netanyahu, who was not living with him, drawing criticism.

Shaffir tweeted in response that she was disappointed in the prime minister’s behavior.

Yair Netanyhu posted back, slamming the former lawmaker and making references to her bid for Knesset along with Ehud Barak as part of the Democratic Union party. Barak was tied to disgraced US financer Jeffery Epstein after a photo emerged of him visiting Epstein’s New York home.

“Are you sure you want to speak about morality in light of the failed project you tried to set up with a pedophile enthusiast and frequent visitor to Epstein’s pedophile island?” Yair Netanyahu tweeted at Shaffir. “You’re ugly inside and out. Find yourself a permanent Arab husband who won’t throw you out, go to some village, become a Muslim and leave us in peace.”

Responding, Shaffir wrote that she had missed her family over the holiday.

“Now, as I read what the prime minister’s son wrote, who was educated in his ways and lives off his money, I miss them even more,” she wrote. “You’re a liar, a harasser and an evil and racist person. The child’s mouth is the father’s legacy.”

“Communist, idiot, pedophile enthusiast, save the derogatory names you called me for Epstein, Barak and your other friends. I don’t take a shekel from the state,” Netanyahu shot back. “You on the other hand owe the taxpayer NIS 8 million.”

Stav Shaffir holds a press conference on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv announcing she will not run in upcoming elections, January 15, 2020. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

In her lawsuit, Shaffir claimed that Netanyahu’s tweets were false, slanderous and sexually degrading.

Netanyahu argues he was only defending himself against Shaffir’s remarks and that she was the one who initiated the confrontation by belittling his father, the prime minister.

He is demanding compensation for Facebook and Twitter posts including the Passover exchange and from 2019 when Shaffer wrote that he is “filth.”

The Crime Minister movement, meanwhile, is suing Netanyahu for NIS 500,000 for his allegedly comparing it to Nazi militias, claiming it was funded by foreign figures.

Yair Netanyahu is no stranger to libel lawsuits and legal threats. He has a history of posting incendiary messages on social media and tweets fast and often against those he believes have wronged him and his family.

Last year, he was ordered to pay NIS 286,000 ($71,000) in damages to former Walla news site editor Avi Alkalay in a libel lawsuit. Alkalay had sued Netanyahu for sharing a number of posts on social media that called the journalist a “planted mole from the Wexner Foundation,” a group that the Netanyahu family accuses of funding left-wing groups and campaigns, and that alleged he was in cahoots with the state’s prosecution against the premier.

In 2019, Netanyahu won a libel lawsuit against Labor Party activist Abie Binyamin, who had accused him of using a fake Mossad-issued passport to hide millions overseas. Netanyahu sued Binyamin for NIS 140,000 ($37,000) in damages over a 2017 Facebook post that claimed the premier had asked the secret service to issue his son a passport under a different name, which he then used to hide money offshore.

The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court ruled for Netanyahu but lowered the award to NIS 20,000 ($5,600) in damages and a further NIS 7,000 ($2,000) in fees.

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