Leftist group slaps Yair Netanyahu with pre-suit notice letter

Molad intends to take PM’s son to court for ‘libelous’ Facebook posts, says allegations an effort to undermine the organization

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

Yair Netanyahu, son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the annual bible study held at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on October 13, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)
Yair Netanyahu, son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the annual bible study held at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on October 13, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

The left-wing Molad think tank on Thursday served Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, with a notice of intent to sue, claiming his recent public swipes at the organization amount to libel.

After the group posted a scathing criticism of Yair Netanyahu on one of its Facebook page for its “Sixty One” initiative, earlier this week, he accused Molad of serving a radical left-wing and anti-Israel agenda.

Titled “5 facts about Yair Netanyahu, our national son,” Molad’s post castigated the prime minister’s son for living at the taxpayer’s expense, taking lavish vacations with an entourage of state-funded security guards, seeking to influence his father, and encouraging the boycott of Arab-owned businesses.

The post has garnered more than 13,000 likes and over 5,400 shares since it was published on Sunday.

Netanyahu, who was already in the news over an incident on Saturday in which he allegedly refused to clean up after his dog, hit back at Molad, saying in a Facebook post on Tuesday that Sixty One’s accusations were “lies.”

He accused Molad of being a “radical, anti-Zionist organization funded by the Foundation for the Destruction of Israel [a reference to the New Israel Fund, in a Hebrew play on words] and the European Union.”

“How nice that your side is always going on about incitement, demonization, character assassination and crossing of all red lines,” he wrote, before signing off with emoji of a middle finger and poop.

These emoji referred to Saturday’s incident at the dog park, during which a woman said Netanyahu junior flipped her the bird after she asked him to clean up his family dog’s excrement.

Netanyahu in his post also claimed he was being unfairly singled out, as the children of former prime ministers were not subject to the same scrutiny.

Molad issued a swift response to Netanyahu’s post, calling on him to apologize and remove it or face a libel lawsuit.

He refused, instead posting several more attacks on the group on his page in the ensuing days.

On Thursday, lawyers for Molad informed the Netanyahus’ attorney of their intent to file a libel lawsuit against the prime minister’s son for defamation. The letter said Netanyahu’s posts about them “had no iota of truth to them” and as a public figure, they were causing “damage to the reputation of the organization.”

The lawyers’ letter also asserted that Molad was not receiving support from the New Israel Fund. In March 2016, the organization had declared it would no longer accept money from the NIF due to the fund’s subsidies for “non-Zionist” groups.

Molad contended that Netanyahu’s attacks, specifically the “anti-Zionist” jab, was part of a wider effort to delegitimize the organization in the public sphere.

Netanyahu’s post also drew ire and the threat of a lawsuit from the son of former prime minister Ehud Olmert.

In his complaint of unfair media scrutiny, Netanyahu had alleged that Ariel Olmert had carried on an illicit affair with a Palestinian man, one that could have “national security implications.”

Olmert hit back in a Facebook post of his own on Wednesday, leveling harsh criticism at Netanyahu for his lavish lifestyle and threatening to sue him for “disseminating false, racist and homophobic slurs.”

“I’ve never lived at the prime minister’s residence, I don’t have a driver or guards paid for by the state, I also don’t hang out with billionaires,” Olmert wrote, flatly denying that he was gay and had ever had a Palestinian partner.

“I actually have to work for a living and I make an effort to pick up my dog’s poop,” he added.

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