Far right Israeli candidate sues after being accused of spying

Otzma Yehudit’s Itamar Ben-Gvir had demanded an apology from former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who implied he works for Israel’s internal security agency.  

By World Israel News Staff

Knesset candidate Itamar Ben-Gvir filed a libel lawsuit against former defense minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday for insinuating that he might be a plant in the Israeli Shin Bet security agency.

Interviewed on Kan public radio on Thursday, Liberman compared Ben-Gvir to Shin Bet informant Avishai Raviv, who operated during the period leading up to the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Accusations were leveled then, in particular among right-wingers, that Raviv had been planted by the Israeli security agency to foment extremism amid what was already a politically-charged atmosphere as Rabin advanced the Oslo Process, granting self-rule to the Palestinians in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, and Israelis were getting killed in rampant massive Palestinian terror attacks.

“Is Itamar Ben-Gvir the same man he presents himself to be? Or is it a sort of new champagne?’” said the former defense minister, referring to Raviv’s codename.

Also interviewed on Kan, Ben-Gvir threatened to sue Liberman if the former defense minister did not apologize within 48 hours. After that period of time elapsed, Ben-Gvir followed through on his threat, filing a claim in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, saying that he was demanding NIS 250,000 ($69,000) in damages.

“If I’m a Shin Bet agent, then Liberman is KGB,” Ben-Gvir said of Liberman, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union.

Ben-Gvir is one of the candidates in the April 9 Knesset election from the Otzma Yehudit party on a joint Jewish Home list. His party is comprised of followers of the late far-right Rabbi Meir Kahane, though they say that they do not promote Kahane’s policies on separating Jews and Arabs, outlawing mixed marriages, and deporting even law-abiding Arabs.

Still, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s active role in urging Jewish Home to bring in the further-right Otzma Yehudit to consolidate the right-wing’s power in the April election drew widespread criticism in Israel and abroad, including a rare condemnation from the AIPAC pro-Israel lobby group in Washington, which has maintained close ties with Netanyahu.

The Central Elections Committee has turned down a bid to disqualify Otzma Yehudit candidates from the parliamentary ballot.

Liberman is the leader of the Yisrael Beitenu party, which has often shown up in opinion polls as not gaining enough votes in the upcoming election to enter the Knesset. The party promotes a tough policy on disloyal Arab citizens, including MKs, and land swaps to remove Arab localities from within Israel’s borders in exchange for Israeli annexation of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

Liberman resigned as defense minister and pulled his party out of the government coalition in November to protest what he viewed as Netanyahu’s soft response to Palestinian attacks from Gaza. His party’s withdrawal from the coalition reduced the prime minister’s majority to a bare 61 in the 120-seat Knesset, and ultimately resulted in the calling of an early Knesset election in April instead of November.