New Hope MK Yifat Shasha-Biton filed a libel lawsuit Wednesday for NIS 500,000 against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's son, Yair, for comments he made about her in December.
Shasha-Biton, a former Likud lawmaker, was at the time chair of Knesset’s coronavirus committee at the height of the pandemic, angering the premier and his allies by striking down several measures passed by the cabinet.
She criticized what she viewed at the time as unjustified measures that kept some public spaces, including gyms, closed while other parts of the economy were reopening after the first infection wave. She used her powers to overturn that decision and several others before Netanyahu defanged her committee and removed her authority to overturn cabinet resolutions, reported The Times of Israel.
Shasha-Biton left Likud in December 2020 to join the fledgling New Hope party of Netanyahu rival Gideon Saar. One of the party's election pledges - which it has upheld despite intense pressure from the country's political right-wing - was to not to join a Netanyahu-led government.
Shortly after she left Likud, Yair Netanyahu lambasted the lawmaker in an interview with right-wing radio station Galey Israel, saying she was responsible for many COVID-19 deaths.
“People died because of her populist decisions, there are people in their graves who died in the second wave [of infections],” Netanyahu said. “She caused the second wave to be more severe by ensuring that everything is opened. This is her only achievement in her entire public life.”
He also claimed that Likud had handed Shasha-Biton the position of coronavirus committee chair as an “act of charity because they felt sorry for her and wanted her to feel good about herself.”
She sent Yair Netanyahu a letter in April demanding that he retract his statements or face a lawsuit, which he subsequently ignored.