Finance Minister Israel Katz’s wife threatened to take coalition whip Miki Zohar to court for defamation on Tuesday, a day after the two Likud heavyweights traded barbs during a Knesset Finance Committee meeting.
In a letter sent through her attorney Navot Tel-Zur, Ronit Katz demanded that Zohar apologize within 48 hours or face a lawsuit for a comment he made about her during the encounter.
“These words are false, baseless, without a trace of truth and constitute libel and slander of the most serious kind, since they entail a fatal injury to the good name, the integrity and dignity of our client and her husband, the finance minister,” the attorney wrote.
During a discussion regarding the government’s pandemic-related economic policies in the Knesset Finance Committee on Monday, Katz accused Zohar of pushing for policy changes to benefit his own family’s interests.
Responding to Zohar’s demand for an increase in the maximum compensation for businesses forced to close down to curb the COVID-19 outbreak, Katz said that his fellow Likud member had taken that position, which differed from that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, because he had “a cousin who owns an event venue.”
In response, Zohar shot back that he was “sorry we have a finance minister who is detached from the people” and called for his ouster, saying that perhaps Netanyahu “should be urged to weigh the continued tenure of the finance minister,” adding that Katz’s “continued tenure is becoming a danger to Likud’s rule.”
As other members of the committee attempted to calm him down, Zohar intimated that there was something amiss with the the finances of the minister’s spouse, declaring that it was time “to speak about the business dealings of Katz’s wife.”
Afterwards, Katz on Twitter accused Zohar of routinely pandering to lobbyists and wrote that even the opposition was showing more responsibility than Zohar.
Zohar admitted that his cousin owns an event venue, but denounced as an “embarrassment” the claim that that was his sole interest in arguing for increased compensation.
The feud also drew in Netanyahu, who summoned both men to his office to sort out the dispute.
Responding to Katz’s lawsuit threat, Zohar said that he did “not intend to respond to nonsense.”
“At the time of the coronavirus crisis that that has befallen us, it is time to act solely for the citizens of Israel without engaging in nonsense that doesn’t really interest anyone,” he said.