Netanyahu Sues Journalist Ben Caspit for Libel: 'Crude, Serious Smears'

Netanyahu seeks 200,000 shekels over article suggesting new prosecutor on team investigating the prime minister is in his debt

Revital Hovel
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, December 23, 2018.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, December 23, 2018.Credit: מארק ישראל סלם
Revital Hovel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu filed a libel suit on Sunday against journalist Ben Caspit over an article Caspit wrote about the police investigations into Netanyahu.

The article, published in the Maariv newspaper last weekend, “contained fewer facts than crude, serious smears against the prime minister, insults, lies and baseless defamation,” the suit said. Netanyahu is seeking 200,000 shekels ($53,000) in damages.

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According to the suit, filed in the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, Caspit has long waged “a deliberate and well-orchestrated smear campaign against the prime minister” in various media outlets, especially Maariv. “He seizes every opportunity to spread harmful messages about the prime minister and doesn’t hesitate to hurl serious accusations against him, whether implicitly or explicitly, even though they have no basis in fact,” it added.

Caspit’s goal, the suit said, was to “humiliate the prime minister and undermine his reputation.” The suit also names Maariv publisher Eli Azur and editor-in-chief Doron Cohen as defendants.

The article in question noted that attorney Amit Marari, who was recently added to the team in the Attorney General’s Office that is considering the Netanyahu cases, is both the deputy attorney general for criminal affairs and the wife of the Knesset’s legal adviser, Eyal Yinon.

“Why is that interesting?” Caspit continued. “Ah, because not long ago, Yinon received a benefit worth 6 million shekels from the Knesset at the last moment before retiring from his post.”

Specifically, the Knesset increased Yinon’s defined-benefit pension by equalizing it to the pensions that judges receive. The person who pushed this through, Caspit added, was Likud MK Miki Zohar, “who is very close to the prime minister.”

“It’s lucky we know Yinon is an honest man, and his wife, apparently, is as well,” Caspit continued. “Imagine what would have happened here if the opposite were true. After all, this gang has demanded that the investigations of the prime minister be disqualified immediately because they were ‘tainted’ by a few policemen who suspected they were being tailed.”

The lawsuit said it is “impossible to ignore” Caspit’s “crude lie” about this benefit, “which the defendant linked, with no basis and completely falsely,” to Marari joining the team examining the evidence against Netanyahu. This constitutes “libel of the worst sort against the prime minister,” it charged.

Netanyahu announced the suit on Twitter, writing, “Spoiler: The liar Ben Caspit, who has been persecuting me and my family for decades, will soon have to pay.”

In a subsequent tweet, he wrote that “just a few months ago, Ben Caspit was forced to apologize and pay compensation to my wife Sara for a false report he published about her.” He added that Caspit would have known his latest report was false as well “had he checked the facts on Google ... first of all because the timetable contradicts his lies.”

In a third tweet, Netanyahu continued, “Ben Caspit’s sick obsession will once again cost him, dearly. If Ben Caspit cared a little more about his family instead of persecuting my family, perhaps we would be spared regrettable incidents like this.”

Last year, Sara Netanyahu sued Caspit, Maariv and then-editor Yoav Zur for an article Caspit published in 2010 claiming that she had fired a gardener upon entering the prime minister’s residence. Under an out-of-court settlement reached in October 2017, the paper paid her 50,000 shekels.

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