PM’s son tells court he didn’t choose public life, unlike his father and brother
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PM’s son tells court he didn’t choose public life, unlike his father and brother

Avner Netanyahu, requesting restraining order against activist who confronted him in restaurant, says he hates having security detail

Avner Netanyahu, son of  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen during a court hearing regarding his request for a restraining order against activist Barak Cohen, at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court in Tel Aviv on August 4, 2019 (Flash90)
Avner Netanyahu, son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen during a court hearing regarding his request for a restraining order against activist Barak Cohen, at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court in Tel Aviv on August 4, 2019 (Flash90)

The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court issued a restraining order against Barak Cohen on Sunday, barring the attorney, a self-described anti-corruption activist, from coming within 150 meters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Avner or contacting him in any way.

The decision comes just over a week after Cohen uploaded a social media video showing him haranguing the 24-year-old Netanyahu while the latter ate at a restaurant in Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu entered the court to jeers from activists, who shouted “crime family,” and the “Netanyahu criminal organization.” At one point the hearing was briefly adjourned for the removal of one of the protesters from the courtroom.

While requesting the restraining order, Netanyahu said that though he was born into a political family he has always avoided publicity, unlike his father and brother, Yair, known for his combative tweets.

“I hate the fact that I have security. I was born to my parents — I’m in this situation, I didn’t decide on it,” Netanyahu told the court.

“I get up every day and live with the criticism because my father chose a political path — I have heard it every day since I was little. That’s the way my dad chose, and so does my brother. I don’t. I’ll never go into it,” he said.

Avner Netanyahu (L), son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen with his attorney Yossi Cohen (R) during a court hearing regarding his request to issue a restraining order against activist Barak Cohen, at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court in Tel Aviv on August 4, 2019 (Flash90)

In Cohen’s video, he can can be seen walking up to Netanyahu at a curbside restaurant in Tel Aviv and unleashing a profanity-filled tirade against the prime minister’s alleged corruption.

“We ran into Avner Netanyahu, the son of the weak, corrupt [man],” he shouts in the two-minute clip, before getting closer. “A family of thieves, your dad is a corrupt thief, you should go away. What about daddy’s thefts? How much did he steal in the end? How much was the bribery he received?”

It was a reference to the three corruption cases in which charges have been announced against the elder Netanyahu, pending a hearing. One of the cases involves bribery charges.

Cohen, a left-wing lawyer who was suspended by the Israel Bar Association in 2017 for harassing banking executives, then spoke about the premier’s older son, Yair, who has been reported in the past to have visited strip clubs, and who last week celebrated his 28th birthday.

“Were you at the party of your brother, the client of prostitutes? You and he get a driver, a security guard — what else do you get from the state? How much do you get?”

In court, the prime minister’s son denied Cohen’s accusation of theft: “The claim that I never pay for things I receive and that my father is corrupt is false.”

In discussions regarding the restraining order, Cohen told the court that he was passing the restaurant by chance when he saw the prime minister’s son, and had not deliberately set out to find him.

Attorney and anti-corruption activist Barak Cohen arrives for a court hearing regarding a request to issue a restraining order against him, filed by Avner Netanyahu, at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court in Tel Aviv on August 4, 2019 (Flash90)

Netanyahu’s lawyer, Yossi Cohen, asked whether the premier’s son would see him again if he went out and whether he would be harassed again.

“I understand that this is a weak person, and I do not intend to contact him again,” Barak Cohen replied.

The judge offered a 200-meter restraining order, which Barak Cohen challenged on the grounds that “we assume that Mr. Netanyahu does not walk around with a ruler — we know Tel Aviv is densely populated.”

Netanyahu responded that even though he has a state-funded security detail to protect him, he is not totally immune.

“The fact that I have security does not negate the fact that you are harassing me,” Netanyahu said.

(L-R) Avner, Sara, Benjamin and Yair Netanyahu tour the Golan Heights on April 23, 2019. (PMO)

In May, Cohen filmed himself confronting Sheldon Adelson, a Jewish casino magnate and major donor to conservative causes in the United States and Israel, in Tel Aviv.

In a video of the incident, Adelson, 85, was seen in a mobility scooter in the background flanked by two men and another younger man, who appeared to be a bodyguard. Cohen then shouted the same sentence in English at Adelson’s direction, prompting the younger man to walk slowly in his direction.

“Stop interrupt in our lives,” Cohen shouted in broken English. “You know what is maniak? You are maniak.” In Hebrew, the word is equivalent to “asshole” in English.

When the younger man touched Cohen, the heckler told him to stop touching him. The younger man then asked Cohen: “Be respectful of an elderly person.” Cohen replied: “He’s destroying our lives. Hand off. You hit, you murder. Hands off.” He continued to curse Adelson, adding, “You live too long.”

Adelson owns the conservative Israel Hayom newspaper, which has long been seen as especially supportive of Netanyahu. Adelson is also a top donor to US President Donald Trump and the Republican party.

Cohen has in recent months also harassed other right-wing figures, such as Yair Netanyahu and Culture Minister Miri Regev.

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