Naftali Bennett
Naftali BennettAmos Ben Gershom/GPO

Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett achieved his first victory in a series of defamation lawsuits after a rabbi apologized for falsely accusing Bennett of not being Jewish.

During a hearing at the Magistrate's Court, Rabbi Ronen Shaulov stated: "During the year 2022, I published against the former Prime Minister, Mr. Naftali Bennett, and against his mother, Ms. Myrna Bennett, information that I received, which later turned out to be incorrect - that the Jewishness of Mr. Bennett's late father, Mr. Jim Bennett, and that of his mother, Mrs. Myrna Bennett, is in doubt.

"After an investigation, I would like to emphasize that these things are false," Rabbi Shaulov added. ''These things said by me reached a wide circulation. I regret saying these things and apologize from the bottom of my heart to the Bennett family for the heartache caused to them by this publication."

The judge presiding over the case will rule on the question of compensation at a later time. The former prime minister had sued Rabbi Shaulov for NIS 1 million ($290,000) in December 2022, and has said that he would donate the damages to the families of fallen IDF soldiers.

In a sermon that was published online, Rabbi Shaulov said: "Bennett is not Jewish, look it up on Google." He claimed that Bennett's parents had undergone Reform conversions to Judaism and therefore were not Jewish according to halakha (Jewish Law). He further accused the former prime minister of having “sold the country to non-Jews and was their dog.”

Neither of Bennett's parents are converts and both come from a long line of Jewish families.

Bennett claimed in his lawsuit that Rabbi Shaulov's false statements are especially harmful because they were heard by hundreds of thousands of people on social media.

Attorneys Oded Gazit and Eliram Bekel, who represent Bennett in the case, said: "It is important that the court sends a clear message of its unwillingness to put up with the spread of lies, and specifically - that the claims that Mr. Bennett is not Jewish are a complete lie. Mr. Bennett has already stated in the past that he will donate the compensation he receives."

Bennett is also suing Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi for defamation over sermons Rabbi Mizrachi gave in which he repeated the false claim that Bennett is not Jewish, stated that Bennett "doesn't have a Jewish soul," called the former prime minister a "devil," and called for him to be "impaled with a spear."