Netanyahu sues Channel 10 for libel

In NIS 2m lawsuit, opposition leader denies he spent tens of thousands in public funds on London trip.

Netanyahu pouts like a chimp 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Netanyahu pouts like a chimp 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday filed a two-million-shekel lawsuit against Channel 10, claiming allegations that he spent tens of thousands of shekels in public funds were libelous. According to the petition, all of the opposition leader's personal expenses on the hasbara, or public diplomacy trip to London in question were paid for out of his own pocket. Netanyahu claimed that these expenses amounted to 12,000 shekels. The petition, filed in the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, went on to say that all the Likud chairman's activities linked to his "extensive" hasbara campaign in the British capital were paid for by well-known, large and respectable Jewish organizations. Netanyahu claimed in the lawsuit that the allegations were part of a campaign to harm his public and political standing. Responding to a specific claim that Netanyahu spent some NIS 11,000 on theater tickets, the opposition leader said that on one occasion on his trip he went to a theater with his wife and security guards, but stressed that he paid for the outing himself. According to the Channel 10 report, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, stayed in a luxurious London hotel for six and a half days, leaving a tab of NIS 131,000, which, the channel said, "is the equivalent of an average Israeli family's expenditure over a whole year." The tab allegedly include the following expenses: NIS 12,000 a night for board at a luxurious London hotel; a NIS 5,200 bar tab at the hotel; NIS 5,200 for laundry; 17,000 for hosting guests; a NIS 2,500 hairdressing bill as well as other expenses amounting to NIS 7,000. Following the filing of the lawsuit, Channel 10's Raviv Drucker backed up the channel's claim, saying it was based on document the channel had in its possession. Speaking to Israel Radio, Drucker reiterated that Netanyahu had received NIS 98,000 on his trip from a single donor, not from several organizations. Drucker called on Netanyahu to hand over all the documents from his trip and reveal exactly how it was funded. Earlier Sunday, Likud MK Gilad Erdan said that the claims against Netanyahu were "tendentious" and that their hollowness would be proved in a hearing ahead of the libel suit. On Saturday, Netanyahu's attorney Yaakov Weinroth wrote that the allegations were "mendacious, manipulative and tendentious - all in an attempt to hurt Netanyahu's public standing and blacken his image as part of a malicious and deliberate political campaign." Following the reports, Kadima MK Yoel Hasson filed a complaint with the Knesset Ethics Committee, and Labor Youth asked Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz to open an investigation against Netanyahu. Weinroth said Netanyahu was accompanied by members of the Israeli Embassy in London, appeared in front of thousands of Jews in support rallies and held many meetings meant to fight the propaganda assault Israel suffered during the war. However, Weinroth claimed, "unlike the narrative presented [by Channel 10], Netanyahu paid from his own pocket for his personal expenses." Netanyahu's office said, "Some of the expenses detailed in the report are incorrect and were changed in the amended tab, while other numbers quoted refer to meals and events where others apart from the Netanyahu participated." Also, the office said, "Most of the expense is the cost of the hotel room where Mr. Netanyahu stayed, which is approximately half the price of the room where Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stayed during his visit to London in 2007." The office insisted that Netanyahu's visit to London was not publicly funded. Weinroth further claimed that Channel 10's news editors did not allow a Netanyahu representative to answer the claims, "despite repeated demands" to do so. He added that "whoever repeats the false data and distortions of Channel 10 will also be exposed to libel suits, backed up by documents and testimony proving the report's falsity." In a follow-up report over the weekend, Channel 10 said that on another trip overseas, this time as finance minister, Netanyahu accrued bloated expenses.