Benny Gantz, the chairman of the Kahol Lavan political alliance, filed a libel suit against Israel Hayom's editor-in-chief and a reporter on Thursday for publishing claims that he exposed himself to a woman when they were schoolmates.
Gantz, who is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's main rival, announced he is suing Boaz Bismuth and Danielle Roth-Avneri for 1 million shekels ($276,000) over "a series of false reports concerting fictitious charges that Jacobs published about him."
Israel Hayom, which is owned by U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson, is aligned with Netanyahu and consistently toes the line with his views on almost every issue.
Nava Jacobs, who now lives in New York, had published a Facebook post claiming 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. Kahol Lavan called the allegation "a total lie" and an attempt at political incitement.
The lawsuit was submitted to the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court and also refers to allegations made by a third party who claims that his younger sister had told him that Gantz exposed himself to her.
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According to the lawsuit, the newspaper published false accusations, acting with "blatant journalistic negligence," with the aim of harming Gantz's political career. The lawsuit also alludes to Netanyahu's close ties to the paper.
Last week, Gantz filed a lawsuit suing Jacobs for half a million shekels. 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 invented 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.
On Thursday, the Walla news website reported that a member of the staff of Culture Minster Miri Regev was in contact with Jacobs and assisted her in contacting the media. The assistant and Jacobs had reportedly met previously by chance in New York.