Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair went on the attack Monday against what he described as his “vile leftist” detractors, with ferocious and seemingly slanderous testimony at times, as part of a libel suit against him, which he is challenging with a counter-claim of defamation.
Appearing at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, the younger Netanyahu railed against the left-wing think tank Molad, which is accusing him of libel against it, and a range of other left-wing groups and individuals who have been critical of him or his father.
The case originated four years ago 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.
After repeated efforts by Judge Hanna Klugman to settle the case outside of the courtroom, Monday’s hearing came as both sides stuck to their litigation suits, each accusing the other of defamation.
Making use of the fact that he cannot be sued for libel for anything said during court testimony, Netanyahu made repeated unfounded claims against Molad and other left-wing groups and individuals, defending his “freedom of expression” to insult and abuse on social media.
“I am not elected by the public and I do not owe anything to the public. I am a private citizen, who expresses his opinion on social networks in accordance with freedom of expression, until you come to power and ban it,” he told attorney Gilad Sher, who was representing Molad, referring to the Israeli left.
Molad’s 2017 post castigated the prime minister’s son for living at the taxpayer’s expense, taking lavish vacations with an entourage of state-funded security guards, seeking to influence his father, and encouraging the boycott of Arab-owned businesses.
חמישה דברים שלא ידעתם על יורש העצר, יאיר נתניהו:1. יאיר, צעיר בן 25 שאינו עובד לפרנסתו ומתגורר בבית הוריו על חשבון…
In response, Netanyahu said the group was serving a radical left-wing and anti-Israel agenda. He accused Molad of being a “radical, anti-Zionist organization funded by the Foundation for the Destruction of Israel [a reference to the New Israel Fund, in a Hebrew play on words] and the European Union.”
“From the post, it was possible to understand that I received money from the state — I never received money from the state,” Netanyahu insisted Monday, before going on the attack.
“I am not inciting against anyone. Molad — If a day comes and my father is murdered, then the blood is on your hands. If they kill me — the blood is on your hands,” he charged.
“You are despicable and vile leftists,” the younger Netanyahu said.
Throughout the hearing, Netanyahu repeatedly rejected the allegations made against him by hitting out at others.
“I have never had an armored vehicle. I have exactly the same vehicle that the pedophile Ehud Barak has,” he said in one of numerous such references to the former prime minister, apparently in reference to Barak’s links to the late convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Asked if he refuted the claims in the post that suggested he received state funds, Netanyahu responded: “Just like the pedophile Ehud Barak has refuted the claims against him.”
After one such mention of Barak, Judge Klugman berated Netanyahu by saying, “I’ve heard that enough.”
Netanyahu responded furiously: “Why are you dictating to me what to answer? I am allowed to answer whatever I want.”
Asked at one point about a report in the Haaretz newspaper, Netanyahu interjected: “You mean the Nazi-owned newspaper of an oligarch wanted for murder?”
German publishing house Dumont Schauberg, which supported the rise of the Nazi party through its Kölnische Zeitung newspaper, has a 25 percent interest in Haaretz.
In a back-and-forth with Sher, Netanyahu replied at one point: “What is that retarded question?”
After a representative from Molad suggested out loud that Yair Netanyahu was in a “precarious mental state,” the prime minister’s son shouted at him: “A disgusting and fat traitor, that’s what you are.”
Netanyahu is no stranger to libel lawsuits and legal threats. He has a history of posting incendiary messages on social media, and he tweets fast and often against those he believes have wronged him and his family.
In 2019, Yair Netanyahu won a libel lawsuit against Labor party activist Abie Binyamin, who had accused him of using a fake Mossad-issued passport to hide millions overseas. Netanyahu sued Binyamin for NIS 140,000 ($37,000) in damages over a 2017 Facebook post that claimed the premier had asked the secret service to issue his son a passport under a different name, which he then used to hide money offshore.
Last March, Yair Netanyahu was ordered to pay NIS 286,000 ($71,000) to former Walla news site editor Avi Alkalay, a witness in the most serious of the three corruption cases against his father, over posts the younger Netanyahu shared on social media that claimed the editor was “a mole” working with the state prosecution against the prime minister.
Alkalay sued Yair Netanyahu for sharing a post on social media that called the journalist a “planted mole from the Wexner Foundation” — a group that the Netanyahu family accuses of funding left-wing organizations and campaigns — and that alleged he was in cahoots with the state prosecution against the premier.
The Wexner Foundation, founded by fashion tycoon Leslie Wexner, has also come under increased scrutiny due to its founder’s close relationship with Epstein.
Additionally, 75 prominent alumni of the Wexner Israel fellowships, including a former state prosecutor and several retired generals, are currently suing Yair Netanyahu for libel over Twitter posts branding them members of a “secret cult.”
The plaintiffs are demanding NIS 1 million ($294,000) in compensation for damage to their reputations, due to Netanyahu’s smears against the prestigious leadership program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School.
In one post flagged by the lawsuit, Netanyahu referred to them as a “cult of pedophiles taking control of our country and carrying out a coup over the past four years.” Pressed to remove that post, he later insisted it referred only to Epstein.