יאיר נתניהו בבית המשפט
Yair Netanyahu
Photo: Yair Sagi
Yair Netanyahu

With incendiary interjections, Netanyahu's son takes center stage in corruption sagas

Yair Netanyahu has become a fixture in the news, clashing with journalists, threatening lawsuits against his father's perceived adversaries and posting online content deemed so offensive that Facebook briefly suspended his account

Associated Press |
Published: 07.05.20 , 12:28
As scandal-plagued Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands trial for corruption, his 28-year-old son has emerged as a driving force in a counterattack against critics and the state institutions prosecuting the longtime leader.
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  • A favorite of the premier's nationalistic base and far-right leaders around the world, Yair Netanyahu has become a fixture in the news, clashing with journalists on social media, threatening lawsuits against his father's adversaries and posting online content deemed so offensive that Facebook briefly suspended his account.
    יאיר נתניהו בבית המשפטיאיר נתניהו בבית המשפט
    Yair Netanyahu
    (Photo: Yair Sagi)
    In the past few weeks alone, he has called to banish minorities from Tel Aviv, tweeted a conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama was born in Kenya and intimated that a critical broadcast journalist slept her way up to her coveted job.
    ציוצו של יאיר נתניהו על דנה ויסציוצו של יאיר נתניהו על דנה ויס
    A Yair Netanyahu tweet from May 2020 in which he hints that Channel 12 correspondent Dana Weiss used sexual favors to further her career
    (Twitter)
    But his toughest broadsides have been directed at the media, judiciary, and law enforcement for conducting what he has called a leftist, ideological crusade to topple his father.
    He's called for Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to be investigated for his "crimes," compared the police chief to fictional mob boss Tony Soprano and described investigators as the Stasi, Gestapo, and "the political police of the Israeli junta."
    It's part of a campaign, echoed to a lesser degree by his father, that critics warn is eroding public faith in Israel's democratic institutions.
    "We would love to just disregard him as a curiosity, as this difficult kid who keeps embarrassing his father. But the truth is there is evidence that he is very influential," says Raviv Drucker, a well-respected investigative TV reporter and favorite target of the Netanyahus, whom both father and son recently tweeted they would like to see imprisoned.
    "He holds very extreme positions and it affects the prime minister's actions."
    Though he holds no official position, Yair Netanyahu is considered a key adviser and the mastermind of his father's increasingly confrontational social media strategy.
    Netanyahu faces charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of corruption cases stemming from ties to wealthy friends. He denies the charges, which follow years of scandals swirling around the family.
    ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו ורעייתו שרה עם נשיא רוסיה ולדימיר פוטין ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו ורעייתו שרה עם נשיא רוסיה ולדימיר פוטין
    Yair, Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu with Russian President Vladimir Putin
    (Photo: Reuters)
    For years, it was his wife, Sara, who drew most of the fire because of her extravagant tastes, misuse of state funds, and alleged abuse of her staff.
    But recently, his eldest son has taken center stage, figuring prominently in various scandals while earning a reputation of living a life of privilege at taxpayers' expense.
    Australian billionaire James Packer, one of the figures in the prime minister's corruption indictments, reportedly gave the younger Netanyahu gifts that included stays at luxury hotels in Tel Aviv, New York, and Aspen, Colorado, as well as the use of his private jet and dozens of tickets for concerts by Packer's former fiancee, Mariah Carey.
    James Packer and Yair Netanyahu with PM Netanyahu and Ambassador Dermer at the United Nations in 2016 James Packer and Yair Netanyahu with PM Netanyahu and Ambassador Dermer at the United Nations in 2016
    James Packer and Yair Netanyahu with PM Netanyahu and Ambassador Dermer at the United Nations in 2016
    (Photo: Channel 10)
    Nir Hefetz, a former Netanyahu aide turned state witness against him, told police that Yair Netanyahu was the major instigator of the bribery case against his father.
    Yair Netanyahu has also sparked controversy by posting an anti-Semitic caricature aimed at his father's critics, vulgarly confronting a woman who told him to pick up after his dog at a park, and tweeting that he hoped elderly leftist protesters would die of COVID-19.
    The prime minister has been forced to denounce some of his son's behavior, like a particularly lewd outing to a strip club with wealthy friends or calling left-wing politicians and the media "traitors." But generally, he staunchly defends his son.
    Yair Netanyahu was only 4 when his father first became prime minister in 1996 and has grown up in the limelight. During his compulsory army service, he was assigned as a liaison to foreign media. He was once court-marshaled for taking an unauthorized furlough.
    He's volunteered for local animal welfare organizations and briefly worked as a social media director for an Israeli NGO providing legal services to victims of Palestinian attacks. But he was put on leave after attacking Israel's figurehead president for advocating Jewish-Arab coexistence.
    As a private citizen, Yair Netanyahu has published op-eds for Breitbart, gone on U.S. and European speaking tours, and voiced support for right-wing extremists in the U.S. and Europe. He has earned their praise in return.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his son Yair Netanyahu Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his son Yair Netanyahu
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his son Yair Netanyahu
    (Photo: GPO)
    Supporters claim he is a victim of the same people targeting his father. But the media have largely ignored his older half-sister Noa and his younger brother Avner, an unassuming 26-year-old university student who generally keeps to himself.
    Yair Netanyahu, who still lives with his parents and declined to comment, claims to have no political aspirations. In his lone interview with Israeli media, he lamented last year to the pro-Netanyahu Channel 20 about the cost his family pays for their status.
    He said the three years his father was out of politics in the early 2000s were their happiest ever.
    "My father decided to put the good life he had aside and get back into all this mud because of his calling," he said. "My only political involvement is what you see on my private Facebook and Twitter."
    התקרית הדיפלומטית של יאיר נתניהוהתקרית הדיפלומטית של יאיר נתניהו
    Yair Netanyahu attacks the UK after it used the term 'Occupied Palestinian Territories' in a post about Prince Charles' visit to Israel and the PA in January
    (Photo: Twitter)
    On Twitter, where he has more than 80,000 followers, he lashes out dozens of times a day and his feed often dictates the following news cycle.
    Facebook blocked his account for 24 hours in 2018 for sharing banned content and writing that he would prefer an Israel without Muslims.
    His brand of provocation has proven irresistible to politicians, journalists, and commentators alike, many of whom have been drawn into bouts of mud-slinging with him.
    Even so, at least a half dozen of his former targets refused to comment, citing his unofficial role and litigious nature.
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