Gantz sues woman alleging sexual harassment for half a million shekels
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Gantz sues woman alleging sexual harassment for half a million shekels

Would-be PM rejects claims of misconduct from high school days as ‘blood libel,’ says political rivals directed or helped accuser publicize ‘completely false’ story

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Benny Gantz, head of the Israel Resilience party, speaks at a conference presenting the party's list of candidates for coming Knesset elections at an event held in Tel Aviv on February 19, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Benny Gantz, head of the Israel Resilience party, speaks at a conference presenting the party's list of candidates for coming Knesset elections at an event held in Tel Aviv on February 19, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz on Thursday filed a half million shekel lawsuit against a woman who accused him of exposing himself to her when they were in high school some 40 years ago.

Gantz’s party said the NIS 500,000 ($142,000) libel suit filed against Navarone Jacobs at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court was in response to her accusation of sexual misconduct that was “completely false from start to finish.”

“The plaintiff does not remember the accuser, and in any case, the fantastical story she invented in her head never happened,” the party said. “This is real blood libel.”

The suit also claimed that Jacobs “acted at the behest of, or with the help of political parties who seek to humiliate and discredit Gantz,” who has emerged as the main rival to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of Israel’s April 9 elections.

Earlier on Thursday, the Walla news site reported that Culture Minister Miri Regev’s office was in contact with Jacobs weeks before she made allegation against Gantz.

Navarone Jacobs (Facebook)

According to the report, members of Regev’s staff helped Jacobs approach a journalist with the story last month while she was attempting to publicize her story. Regev (Likud) and Jacobs confirmed this, and the minister told Channel 12 that her staff’s involvement was not politically motivated.

In a Facebook post detailing her allegation against Gantz on Wednesday, Jacobs said he had exposed himself to her in a cowshed at the Kfar Hayarok boarding school in the mid-1970s. She said the incident, which occurred when she was about 14 and he was about 17, was stopped by a mutual friend who pulled him away. She said the incident “ruined my life.”

Jacobs emigrated from Israel in 1982, and currently resides in New York.

A Channel 13 report on the incident said no proof or supporting evidence for the allegation had been found. It noted that in late December, Jacobs alleged in a post that “Benny Gantz would expose himself” to women at Kfar Hayarok and urged them to come forward because “now is the time to speak!!! Pedophile, he’s no angel and he did despicable things at Kfar Hayarok, as a youth.”

Asked in a response to that post at the time whether she had studied with Gantz, Jacobs replied, “I studied at Kfar Hayarok and I heard stories.”

Speaking to Hebrew TV channels on Wednesday, Jacobs said her claim was “completely true,” that it had been difficult to write, and that she had “nothing to gain” by coming forward.

“I had to bring the truth out because I love the State of Israel and don’t believe a man like this can even sit in the government of Israel,” she said tearfully.

In previous posts, Jacobs has expressed support for Netanyahu and opposition to Gantz’s partner at the helm of Blue and White, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.

After Gantz filed the libel suit, Hebrew media reported that Jacobs said she intended to file a counter lawsuit against him for “sexual harassment, threats and for ruining my life.”

On Thursday, the Israel Hayom daily published another allegation of sexual misconduct against Gantz from the 1970s.

A man who claimed to be Gantz’s school-mate from Kfar Hayarok told the pro-Netanyahu paper that Gantz and a second youth exposed themselves to his little sister during a family visit.

The man said Gantz and his friends were known to be the school’s bullies and pranksters, and that he could “clearly remember” Gantz and his friend “undressing in front of [my mother and sister] and laughing the whole time.”

He said that he chose to come forward with the story after Jacobs published her own, because he realized that Gantz’s behavior was habitual.

“Even though he will certainly deny it, Gantz’s time at Kfar Hayarok cannot be erased,” the man said. “The public needs to know what happened and should judge for itself what should happen.”

When Channel 12 reached out to the man’s sister to try to confirm the allegations published in Israel Hayom, she told the TV station she did not remember the incident. Channel 12 said the mother, the other witness to the alleged incident, has since passed away.

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