The opening hearing in the evidence stage of mutual lawsuits between Yair Netanyahu and former Labor MK Stav Shaffir was marked by a raucous court session in which Netanyahu was ousted from the courtroom amid repeated outbursts.
Shaffir is suing Netanyahu — the oldest son of the prime minister-designate — for sexual harassment over posts he wrote about her on Twitter. Netanyahu lodged a retaliatory lawsuit over Shaffir’s own social media posts.
Netanyahu was ordered by the judge to leave the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s courtroom for interrupting Shaffir as she gave her testimony, and at one point was heard calling her a “bitch.”
Shaffir began proceedings by rejecting a request from Netanyahu’s legal team that she drop her lawsuit against their client.
“If I thought there would be a change in his violence and behavior I would consider it,” she told the courtroom.
Shaffir is seeking NIS 263,000 ($76,600) in damages for Twitter posts in 2020 by Netanyahu that she claims were slander and sexual harassment. Netanyahu has sued her in return for NIS 300,000 ($87,385) over comments she made in response to him at the time, as well as other past social media posts.
The reciprocal lawsuits stemmed from a sharp exchange between the two in April 2020, while Israel was under a strict COVID lockdown over Passover. Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted a photo of his family celebrating together, including his youngest son, Avner Netanyahu, who was not living with him, drawing criticism.
Shaffir tweeted that she was disappointed in the prime minister’s behavior.
In response, Yair Netanyahu slammed the former lawmaker, referencing her Knesset run alongside former prime minister Ehud Barak in the Democratic Union party. Barak was infamously photographed visiting disgraced US financier Jeffrey Epstein’s New York home, but has denied any misdeeds.
“Are you sure you want to speak about morality in light of the failed project you tried to set up with a pedophile enthusiast and frequent visitor to Epstein’s pedophile island?” Yair Netanyahu tweeted at Shaffir. “You’re ugly inside and out. Find yourself a permanent Arab husband who won’t throw you out, go to some village, become a Muslim, and leave us in peace.”
Responding, Shaffir wrote that she had missed her family over the holiday.
“Now, as I read what the prime minister’s son wrote, who was educated in his ways and lives off his money, I miss them even more,” she wrote. “You’re a liar, a harasser, and an evil and racist person. The child’s mouth is the father’s legacy.”
“Communist, idiot, pedophile enthusiast, save the derogatory names you called me for Epstein, Barak, and your other friends. I don’t take a shekel from the state,” Netanyahu shot back. “You, on the other hand, owe the taxpayer NIS 8 million.”
In her lawsuit, Shaffir claims that Netanyahu’s tweets were false, slanderous, and sexually degrading. Netanyahu argues that he was only defending himself against Shaffir’s remarks.
He is demanding compensation for Facebook and Twitter posts including the Passover exchange and from 2019 when Shaffir wrote that he is “filth.”
Netanyahu’s attorney, Yariv Lankri, suggested that Shaffir is only suing his client to remain relevant in political life after exiting the Knesset, and that her remarks had provoked the online social media battle.
“Are you saying someone is inviting verbal sexual assault?” Shaffir said. “This is referring to the victim as someone who brought the crime upon himself.”
“Netanyahu, as a public figure even though he was not elected by the public, used sexual violence as a strategy, tried to attribute treachery to me in the security of the state,” she said.
“What nonsense, you had an Arab boyfriend. What do you want?” Netanyahu shot back at her.
Shaffir replied: “That’s a complete lie, there is nothing wrong with an Arab partner, and if I had one I would say so.”
Netanyahu also accused Shaffir of “stealing eight million shekels from the public” and mocked her, saying he was “weeping tears for her,” while noting she is married to Amit Stibbe, the son of purported billionaire Eytan Stibbe.
The prime minister’s son was likely referencing the NIS 8 million that Shaffir and Barak borrowed from the Knesset for their joint electoral run in 2019, which they failed to pay back after the Knesset disbanded for an immediate subsequent election.
During the session, Judge Aviyam Barkai repeatedly warned Netanyahu that he would be ejected if he did not end his outbursts, and eventually ordered him to leave the courtroom. As Netanyahu walked out, he was heard muttering to himself “bitch.”
He later returned, but was once again removed after further outbursts, and remained outside the courtroom until Shaffir completed her testimony, Channel 13 reported.
In his own testimony, Netanyahu said that: “For me, it’s another day that my blood is spilled. I’m being tarred and feathered. I’m not a voodoo doll. I’m a human being. Mrs. Stav Shaffir has a billionaire husband, for her, it’s like buying chewing gum. She’s wasting the court’s time.”
Also Tuesday, the Lod Magistrate’s Court ordered the Crime Minister political movement to pay Likud MK Miki Zohar NIS 10,000 in a defamation lawsuit he brought against the group which sought to oust Benjamin Netanyahu from power while he was in office.
The movement had called Zohar a “soldier in Netanyahu’s criminal organization who never stops lying and inciting.”
The organization was also ordered to pay NIS 22,500 in court fees.
“Justice has been served,” Zohar said in a statement. “I hope that in the future they will stop defaming elected officials and harming their good name. Freedom of expression is a supreme value in democracy, but in no way is it intended to become freedom of slander and mudslinging.”
Netanyahu led a bloc of right religious parties to victory in the November 1 elections and is engaged in coalition talks to form the next government.