Benny Gantz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's biggest challenger and the head of the Kahol Lavan alliance, is suing a woman who claims that he exposed himself to her when they were schoolmates for half a million shekels (about $140,000).
The woman claimed on Wednesday that Gantz exposed himself to her when she was 14 while the two of them were classmates at a school north of Tel Aviv in the 1970s.
In the libel suit, Gantz's attorneys stated that "these are fabrications and blatant lies. A true blood libel. The complainant does not recall any acquaintance with the defendant, and in any way the fantastic tale she made up in her mind never took place."
Gantz also stated in the lawsuit that he finds inappropriate sexual conduct especially grave, and thinks that claims regarding such conduct should be considered with the utmost seriousness. Especially because of that, Gantz says in the lawsuit, the false claims against him are very severe.
The ex-general has announced that he intends to donate any sum the courts will order in his favor to a public cause, such as the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel.
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In response to the claim made on Facebook by Nava Jacobs, who now lives in New York, Kahol Lavan called the allegation “a total lie” and an attempt at political incitement. Kahol Lavan said it would take legal action in response to the post.
On Thursday, the Walla news website reported that a member of the staff of Culture Minster Miri Regev, who is a Likud Knesset member, had contact with Jacobs and assisted her in contacting the media. The assistant and Jacobs had reportedly met previously by chance in New York.
Jacobs alleges that Gantz, who is now 59 years old and is a retired Israeli army chief of staff, exposed himself to her and added that he blocked her path when she attempted to run away until his friend pulled him away. Jacobs said a male friend of Gantz had told her that Gantz had also exposed himself to the friend’s sister, who was 7 years old at the time.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, the major rival of Kahol Lavan, said it had no connection to the Facebook post.
Regev’s office staff said in response that Jacobs had contacted an assistant to Regev and that the assistant served as an intermediary between Jacobs and the media, but that Regev herself had no connection with the matter.
“I am stunned by the hypocrisy of the media, of women’s organizations and of Benny Gantz. A woman contacts my office a month ago and you want me to hang up the phone on her,” Regev said about the matter on Thursday. “I have never in my life spoken to Nava.”
Addressing Jacobs directly, Regev added: “I support you for your courage in telling what you experienced. If it had involved someone from the right wing, everyone would have jumped on it with headlines. I would expect Benny Gantz to face Nava and apologize or say what happened there.”
Kahol Lavan, a joint slate combining Gantz’s Hosen L’Yisrael and the Yesh Atid and Telem parties, issued a statement saying in part: “The revelation of the connection between Miri Regev’s office and a baseless complaint by Nava Jacobs requires an immediate criminal investigation” and added: “There is a Netanyahu-Regev method here that knows no bounds and for which nothing is sacred other than political survival. We believe that the public will prove to them that they are already sick of the Netanyahu-Regev method.”
Regev’s office told the Walla website that about a month ago, Jacobs contacted an assistant to Regev whom she had previously met in New York. “[Jacobs] asked to speak to Regev on a personal matter related to sexual harassment. Minister Regev did not speak with her and responded via her assistant that, with all of the sorrow and pain involved, she suggests that she contact law enforcement authorities with a complaint,” the response to Walla noted. “Jacobs asked the minister’s assistant to put her in touch with a woman journalist from Channel 12 news to recount her personal story to her, and that’s what was done,” Regev’s office said. “Minister Regev and the staff of her office have no personal connection with Ms. Jacobs.”
Jacobs confirmed this account, Walla reported.