Netanyahu's Son Avner Gets Restraining Order Against Israeli Social Activist

A Tel Aviv court issued the restraining order after Avner filed a harassment complaint against Barak Cohen, who accosted the elder Netanyahu at a restaurant

Avner Netanyahu in court in Tel Aviv.
Tomer Appelbaum

The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court issued a restraining order Sunday requiring social activist Barak Cohen to stay away from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Avner. The court ordered Cohen to stay at least 150 meters (about 500 feet) away from the prime minister’s son for the next six months and specified that any chance encounter between them could not last more than a few minutes.

Avner Netanyahu filed a harassment complaint last week against Cohen, who is a lawyer, after Cohen posted a clip on social media showing himself standing behind Netanyahu and Netanyahu’s girlfriend at a Tel Aviv restaurant as Cohen yelled at them. Cohen and other activists have recently begun approaching people considered close to the prime minister and his family to protest what they claim is the individuals’ role in “maintaining the Netanyahu regime.”

Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge Amit Yariv ruled on Sunday that “as long as a protest doesn’t exceed permissible bounds, the right of a person to protest what he views as an injustice must be protected.” The judge added: “Civil protest comes in various and sundry forms. Along with opinion pieces in the press, we are also familiar with means of protest [involving] demonstrating near the homes of public figures and even protesting by throwing cream pies in politicians’ faces.”

The judge went on to say that in the case before him, he was limiting Cohen’s freedom of expression because Cohen had chosen means that had not contributed to the objective of his protest. “As long as there is a logical nexus between the means of the protest and the desired objective, one must come down in favor of freedom of expression. When the means does not serve that purpose, one must weigh in favor of the right to privacy,” the judge wrote.

Barak Cohen, center, at Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court.
Tomer Appelbaum

Judge Yariv found that Cohen had harassed Avner Netanyahu on two different occasions. “It is clear beyond all doubt that this involves harassment,” the judge said.

‘Making a scene’

“‘Making a scene’ in a public place to which [Avner] Netanyahu had come in his free time to sit with his friends … is a clear infringement on his [right to] a peaceful life and privacy, and posting the videos showing the harassment is an even more serious violation of [Netanyahu’s] privacy.”

Although Cohen said he no longer plans to protest in the vicinity of the prime minister’s son, the judge said that wasn’t enough, citing a Facebook post in which Cohen had called on the public to send him information about the Netanyahu family.

After the court rendered its verdict, Cohen told reporters: “We have discovered that, contrary to the family’s image, Avner is a weak person, and we don’t harm weak people.” Cohen added: “At the hearing, I said I saw no point in continuing the fight with him. I got the impression that his opinions are more like ours than like this family’s.”

At the hearing, Cohen claimed that he was entitled to approach Avner Netanyahu as he had because the prime minister’s son is a public figure who is provided a security detail by the state. Avner Netanyahu retorted: “I would have preferred not being with any of those present here. I hate the fact that I’m guarded.”

The prime minister’s son added: “There are four bodyguards here with me and I know they are in my best interest. I do not want to be in this situation. I am my parents’ son because I was born into it. I have no reason to embarrass them, I think that the saddest thing is when a person disowns his own parents. Mine haven’t given me any reason to do that. That I have bodyguards is not my decision.”