Yair Netanyahu trades barbs with TV presenter who hosted his dad’s heckler
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Yair Netanyahu trades barbs with TV presenter who hosted his dad’s heckler

PM’s son calls talk show anchor Ofira Assayag a ‘vulgar beast’ for interviewing woman who interrupted his father during a speech this week; Assayag then insults his mother

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's eldest son Yair Netanyahu is seen at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on June 5, 2018. (Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's eldest son Yair Netanyahu is seen at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on June 5, 2018. (Flash90)

Yair Netanyahu, the son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, traded insults with an Israeli TV talk show host over the weekend following an incident this past week that saw his father widely criticized for berating a heckler whom he called “boring” during a speech in northern Israel.

Netanyahu was speaking in Kiryat Shmona on Tuesday to inaugurate a new emergency room with Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman when a local woman, Orna Peretz, interrupted his address to protest the closure of an emergency room in the area.

Her criticism echoed frequent complaints by residents of northern Israel that they are discriminated against and have to travel far for high-level medical facilities.

In response, Netanyahu told her: “Look, you’re simply uninteresting. You’re boring us. We want to discuss things that interest us. Come back when you have something interesting to say.”

Amid criticism, Netanyahu later defended himself, saying the incident caught him amid “deep pain and grief” at the death hours earlier of his close friend and personal defense lawyer Yaakov Weinroth. He said he usually has no problem with hecklers but felt Peretz’s interruption was “inappropriate.”

Peretz was subsequently interviewed on the popular Hebrew-language talk show “Ofira and Berkovic” hosted by TV personalities Ofira Assayag and former soccer star Eyal Berkovic, which aired on Friday. At one point in the interview, Assayag turned to the camera and asked, “Is this how a prime minister speaks?”

The question earned her a scathing Facebook post written by Yair Netanyahu, 27, who called her a “vulgar beast” and suggested she got ahead in her career due to an affair with a married man. He was apparently referencing Assayag’s relationship with sports personality Eli Gutman, which was widely covered locally.

“The only reason ‘Keshet’ [the broadcasting operator] airs this sub-par [show] is because of the incitement against my father and our family, and against the right-wing public,” Netanyahu charged, adding that Assayag was “kowtowing to the Left in order to be embraced [by it].”

Ofira Assayag, left, and Eyal Berkovic, right, on their show. (Screenshot)

Assayag responded on Instagram by contrasting Yair Netanyahu with his father — and taking a shot at his mother, as well.

“It’s amazing to me the huge gap between the high intelligence, sharpness and eloquence and the early career of a younger Benjamin Netanyahu, with the idleness and boredom of Yair Netanyahu,” she wrote. “At the age of 27, his father was already commanding a [military] team in Sayeret Matkal in daring operations, Yair Netanyahu lives at the expense of the public, is bored, unemployed and expresses himself insanely.”

“No doubt that he inherited his genes from his mother,” she concluded.

Yair Netanyahu later replaced his original Facebook post with one that employed relatively more moderate language: “Ofira doesn’t seem to get enough screen time every Friday in order to incite and spread poison against me, against my family, and against the Israeli right.”

But he also wrote a tense response to Assayag’s Instagram post, writing that she was “risking a defamation suit,” and defended his mother as the “first working wife of a prime minister.”

“Maybe my post made you think a bit about how I feel seeing your incitement and poison against my parents… on your program!” he wrote.

He also clarified that he was indeed employed. This summer, Netanyahu was hired as the social media manager for Shurat HaDin — Israel Law Center, a Tel Aviv-based non-governmental organization whose aim is to put terror organizations out of business.

On Saturday evening, Yair Netanyahu wrote another Facebook post saying that he basically had “no problem with left-wing journalists (even radical ones)… Only with those who play dirty and attack a woman and children, engage in character assassinations… and don’t seem to understand that the people on the other side whom they are trying to destroy, are literally, human beings with feelings.”

Yair Netanyahu maintains a very confrontational relationship with the Israeli press and has been at the center of a number of scandals over the years, including for his social media activity. He’s been in hot water for contentious social media posts often attacking his and his family’s detractors.

Last year, he was criticized for posting a cartoon that appeared to adopt anti-Semitic themes to take aim at his parents’ critics, including former prime minister Ehud Barak, lawyer and Labor party activist Eldad Yaniv, and Menny Naftali — a former caretaker at the Prime Minister’s Residence who is at the heart of allegations of wrongdoing over which Sara Netanyahu is facing indictment.

Screenshot of the cartoon, featuring George Soros, posted by Yair Netanyahu, September 8, 2017. (Facebook)

Yair Netanyahu has also previously made international waves by saying in a post that American left-wing groups are more dangerous than neo-Nazis, following deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, during a far-right march, and US President Donald Trump’s controversial statements that “both sides were to blame” for the violence.

In January, recordings emerged where Yair Netanyahu was heard making disparaging comments about women during a night of excess in a series of Tel Aviv strip clubs.

The explosive recordings of the younger Netanyahu, published by Hadashot TV news, also featured him trying to parlay, apparently in jest, a gas deal worth billions of dollars to get cash for strippers from a gas tycoon’s son.

Yair Netanyahu is also involved in a legal dispute with the left-wing think tank Molad, each suing for libel.

The case originated in August last year, when Molad wrote an unflattering Facebook post about the premier’s son, entitled, “Five things you did not know about Yair Netanyahu.” Netanyahu then called the group “radical” and “anti-Zionist,” leading to a libel suit by Molad and a counter-suit by Netanyahu.

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