Ehud Barak slammed a British tabloid report that insinuated that he may have met with young women at the New York mansion of convincted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein on Wednesday during a statement he made in Tel Aviv.
He denied the veracity of the report, hinting it may be Prime Minister Netanyahu's doing, and also attacked the way he has been portrayed in the press.
"A despicable act has been committed in Israel, a false and baseless blood libel," Barak, who is currently running for Knesset as the head of his newly-established Democratic Israel party, said.
He also took the opportunity to lash out at Netanyahu, who jumped on the opportunity to besmirch Barak after Epstein was arrested earlier this month because of their known ties with each other.
"We have been living for the past 25 years in Israel in an atmosphere of fear in which anyone who tries to replace Netanyahu becomes a traitor and even worse," Barak asserted in reference to the prime minister. "From David Levy, who's only sin was to stand for the Likud leadership and whose betrayal of Netanyahu turned him into a senior Likud official surrounded by enemies, through Yitzhak Rabin, who was prime minister until he was felled by three bullets in the back, which were the product of lies and incitement. It was the same with Meir Dagan in his day and recently Benny Gantz, a target of a despicable campaign of lies, who only wanted to lead Israel back to normality."
A Likud Party spokesman commented: "This lie won't let Barak escape having to explain to Israeli citizens what he was doing in the home of his convicted pedophile friend Jeffrey Epstein and why he received from his foundation $2.3 million for research that never existed."
Meanwhile, British tabloid Daily Mail has kept the "offending article" online, despite a deadline set in an ultimatum issued by Barak's lawyers.
British law firm Mishcon de Reya sent a letter to the Daily Mail on Wednesday ordering it to "urgently" remove the article from their website.
"If legal proceedings issued by our client for defamation are to be avoided, he expects to receive from you as a matter of urgency (emphasis in the original) the following redress … The immediate removal from your website of the offending article and confirmation in writing that this has been done," wrote the London-based firm. "By 'immediate,' we mean by no later than 5 P.M. today."
The British newspaper had published a paparazzi photo of him entering Epstein’s home in January 2016. The picture showed Barak with his coat collar turned up in what the paper deemed an attempt to conceal his face.
Alongside Barak’s photo, the article featured pictures of four women whom it said entered the house that day, although apparently at different times. The article offers no evidence that Barak ever encountered these women while he was at Epstein's house, but it implies that the photos raise questions about his claim over the past few days that he “never met Epstein in the company of women or young girls.”
“These pictures obtained exclusively by DailyMail.com show Ehud Barak … trying to hide his face as he entered the convicted pedophile’s Manhattan townhouse,” reporter Martin Gould wrote. “A bevy of young women were also seen going into the multi-millionaire's lavish seven-story home on the same day that Ehud Barak was snapped.” The report also noted that Barak is married.
The law firm additionally demanded that the Daily Mail "publish prominently" on its website "a correction and apology to our client in terms to be agreed in advance by us," make a formal retraction and apology in open court "for the defamatory allegations concerning him which you have published," "undertake not to republish those allegations or similar allegations concerning our client" and to pay Barak "substantial damages to vindicate his reputation and to compensate him" both for personal harm caused to his reputation and for "the distress, hurt and humiliation that your publication has caused him."
The law firm asserted that the tabloid article "makes a number of very serious allegations against and insinuations about our client which are highly defamatory and entirely untrue." It stressed, "Most seriously, you have sought to draw our client into the Epstein affair, suggesting that he is somehow involved in 'Jeffrey Epstein' pedophile ring," which it insisted is false.
The firm pointed out that the Daily Mail never contacted Barak, normally unacceptable but especially egregious because Barak is "involved in a fiercely contested election campaign in Israel, and where the allegations could not be more serious and damaging."
The firm called the Daily Mail's handling of the article "naïve and irresponsible" at best and "purposefully and maliciously defaming our client" in the worst case.
Democratic Israel issued a statement on Tuesday saying “Barak disgustedly rejects the loathsome insinuations in this article. Neither the report nor the insinuations have any basis. They are a complete lie, aside from the fact that Barak admits it’s very cold in New York in January.
“The Daily Mail has published several false articles of this type in the past about Barak as well as other people. Other journalists who have looked into these reports haven’t found any evidence for these lies," the statement read.
Last week Haaretz's Gidi Weitz revealed that the registered sex offender partnered with Barak to invest in his startup.
In 2015 Barak set up a limited partnership, in which he is the sole shareholder. That company invested in Reporty Homeland Security, established in 2014, becoming a major shareholder. Last year Reporty changed its name to Carbyne. The company develops call-handling and identification capabilities for emergency response services.
Barak is the chairman of Carbyne and according to reports by business media outlets, his personal investment in the company totals millions of dollars in it. Haaretz has learned that Epstein financed a considerable part of the investment, thus becoming a partner in the project.
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