The prime minister’s son Yair Netanyahu was in court Wednesday to face a libel suit filed by a young woman who claims she was subjected to sexual harassment after he tweeted a photo of her that she says insinuated she was the lover of National Unity party leader Benny Gantz.
During his responses to cross-examination from the plaintiff’s attorney, Netanyahu asserted that Iran has the ability to extort Gantz with a video clip it stole from his phone in which, he claimed, the lawmaker exposes himself to the camera for the benefit of an alleged lover. There is no known evidence that such a clip exists or is in the hands of Iran.
Netanyahu was sued by Dana Cassidy in 2020 after he posted her photo and details online, leading to harassment by supporters of the Netanyahu family. Last year a court ordered Netanyahu to pay the plaintiff NIS 500,000 ($154,000) after he failed to defend himself in court. Judge Ronen Peleg accepted Netanyahu’s appeal in which he claimed to have never received the notice against him — a claim the young Netanyahu has also made in another libel case against him — and ordered that the case be heard.
Netanyahu had posted the photo of Cassidy with the question “Does anyone know who this is?” He did so after posting unsubstantiated allegations about affairs Gantz had supposedly had. The allegations came during an election campaign.
A pro-Likud Twitter account then posted an image of Cassidy with Gantz, with the superimposed caption: “He invited me for tea and it turned me on.” Cassidy, an animal rights activist, was photographed with Gantz when he and Blue and White MK Miki Haimovitch visited the farm where she works. She denies the caption was hers.
The posts led to Cassidy suffering online harassment and claims of her supposed sexual exploits with Gantz. She then sued Netanyahu for libel.
In the magistrate’s court Wednesday, Cassidy’s attorney Ron Levinthal asked Netanyahu about his claims that Gantz had extramarital affairs.
“I know what was published in the media, that there is a Gantz clip,” Netanyahu said. “The Shin Bet discovered that the Iranians broke into Benny Gantz’s cellphone, they found a clip in the style of Avi Himi that he sent to his lover in America.”
Himi, the former head of the Israel Bar Association, resigned Tuesday after reports that he exposed himself and performed an indecent act during a video call with a young lawyer.
מישהו יודע מי זאת? ???? pic.twitter.com/nWtzbkMZ46
— Yair Netanyahu (@YairNetanyahu) February 23, 2020
Netanyahu claimed in court that the libel lawsuit was a bid for vengeance by Gantz, saying the lawmaker didn’t file his own suit to prevent “revealing the skeletons in his closet.”
He further said he had targeted Cassidy because she’d posted a remark on the internet saying she wanted Gantz to be prime minister as he’d once made her a cup of tea.
“Her claim as to why he should be prime minister made me laugh, so that was my way to mock her,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu reportedly left the courtroom during Cassidy’s testimony. Cassidy told the court that Netanyahu had carefully planned his suggestion that she was Gantz’s lover, by first publishing a series of posts “that obsessively dealt” with the politician’s alleged affair and then following them with the picture of her and the comment “Anyone knows who this is?”
“There is a connection between the tweets related to Benny Gantz’s sex life and the tweets about me,” she said.
Cassidy claims the reactions to Netanyahu’s post on social media were a form of “mass sexual harassment,” with posters making numerous sexual references to her and her supposed relationship with Gantz.
She also says she was later inundated with “a flood” of calls from the media asking her for comment on her purported affair with the politician.
Yair Netanyahu has a history of posting incendiary messages on social media and tweets fast and often against those he believes have wronged him and his family.
He has faced multiple libel lawsuits, including one from former Walla news site editor Avi Alkalay, who was also represented by Levinthal. In that case, Netanyahu was ordered in 2020 to pay NIS 286,000 ($81,900) in damages for sharing a post on Facebook that called Alkalay a “planted mole from the Wexner Foundation,” a group that the Netanyahu family accuses of funding left-wing NGOs and campaigns.