Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman filed a defamation lawsuit Tuesday against a man who claimed in a series of tweets in recent weeks that the lawmaker met with Blue and White No. 2 MK Yair Lapid in Vienna to plot the failure of coalition talks after the April elections.
Liberman, through his attorneys, demanded NIS 140,000 ($38,000) from Giora Ezra, aka Captain George, for deliberately trying to defame him during an election campaign as the country gears up to head back to the polls on September 17.
Ezra, a 64-year-old real estate agent from the central city of Yavneh, tweeted at least five times in recent weeks about what he said was “the plan that was cooked up between Lapid and Liberman in Vienna.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who leads the ruling Likud party, failed to put together a right-wing majority coalition due to an impasse between secular Liberman and ultra-Orthodox parties over army draft quotas for the ultra-Orthodox community, leading to the dissolving of parliament and scheduling of new elections.
Netanyahu and his Likud party have accused the hawkish Liberman of being a leftist and using the ultra-Orthodox draft as an excuse to stay out of their coalition and prevent another Likud-led government, thus giving a chance to the party’s chief rival, the centrist Blue and White.
In documents filed at Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, Liberman’s attorneys wrote that the lawsuit “concerns the grave publications that the defendant published against the plaintiff, with the intention of harming him, at the height of an election campaign.”
The lawsuit claims that the publication of the tweets could cause Liberman considerable media and public damage.
“Each and every word in the aforementioned tweets are absolute lies, which never happened in reality.” declared the lawsuit which included screenshots of the tweets. “Regrettably, this is not the first time that the defendant published these false things.”
Ezra and his “Captain George” Twitter persona gained media attention before the April elections when his account was listed in a report that claimed to expose an alleged network of fake Twitter accounts disseminating pro-Netanyahu messages ahead of the April elections.
Netanyahu convened a press conference to address the report and invited some of those included in it, among them Ezra, to stand with him before the press, proving they were real people and not automated bots, as claimed in the report.
Shortly after the press conference, held at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, dozens of disparaging statements made by Ezra began to emerge showing him to be a far-right political activist with a history of lashing out against the prime minister’s rivals, journalists, and public officials with racist and homophobic statements.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.