Netanyahu's Son Yair Ordered to Pay Damages to Journalist in Libel Suit

Premier’s son will have to pay 250,000 shekels ($71,592) to a former editor of the Walla News site after posting a link to slanderous report

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Yair Netanyahu, Petach Tikva, June 5, 2018
Yair Netanyahu, Petach Tikva, June 5, 2018Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s youngest son, Yair, was ordered to pay 250,000 shekels ($71,592) in damages and another 37,000 shekels ($10,600) in legal costs to journalist Avi Alkalay by the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Saturday night.

Alkalay was the editor of the Walla News website during the events that led to the investigation into Case 4,000, in which the prime minister has with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

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Case 4000 is considered the most serious among the cases Netanyahu has been charged in, and revolves around a bribery deal between the premier and businessman Shaul Elovich, who controlled the Bezeq telecommunications company and the Walla News site. According to the indictment, Netanyahu and Elovich engaged in a quid-pro-pro deal in which Netanyahu – as communication minister – led regulatory steps directly tied to Elovich's businesses and interests that yielded the tycoon some $500 million.

In return, according to the indictment, Netanyahu and his wife Sara made consistent requests to alter the coverage on the Walla News website in order to serve the Netanyahus' interests and target their opponents.

Journalist Alkalay had sued Yair Netanyahu for libel and slander after the active social media user posted a link to reports by blogger Avshalom Zelinger, who claimed Alkalay had links with the Wexner Foundation — a U.S. philantropic organization focusing on leadership training once managed by Jeffrey Epstein. Zelinger also claimed Alkaly was a member of a conspiracy against the prime minister and pushed for him to be arrested.

Alkalay never took part in a Wexner study program, and maintains he was not part of any plan against Netanyahu. He sued Netanyahu and Zelinger for a total of half a million shekels. Yair Netanyahu said he never read Zelinger’s report but only shared a link to it. However, according to a recent ruling by the Supreme Court, posting a link is the same as posting the article itself.

The court ruled in favor of Alkalay after Netanyahu submitted no defense for three months. Yair Netanyahu claimed on Twitter that he was not aware of the lawsuit itself. This was debunked by Twitter users, who posted a link to his reaction to the affair on the platform after it was reported by Israeli business publication Globes in November.

Proceedings against Zelinger are underway separately.

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