Barak spoke the night after the Daily Mail published an article that made it appear that he took part in a party with underage women at convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s New York home in January 2016. He accused Netanyahu of being behind the article.
“This has been a disgusting blood libel that should surprise no one, because anyone who has challenged Netanyahu over the past 25 years has endured it,” Barak told his sweaty supporters in a packed room that lacked air-conditioners.
He cited the 1995 assassination of then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, and false attacks on former foreign minister David Levy and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, blaming Netanyahu for all of them.
“This must stop, and it will stop,” Barak said. “No one will make me a criminal or a traitor just because I have exposed the destruction of democracy by the suspect who currently lives in the former home of Rabin.”
Barak called himself a “feminist” and called Epstein’s crimes disgusting. He said he was disconnecting all his remaining business ties with Epstein, contrasting himself to Netanyahu, who still is advised by his former chief of staff Natan Eshel, who had to leave his post due to sexual harassment.
“No fake news of a fake prime minister will stop us,” Barak said. “Netanyahu will continue telling lies about me, and I will continue telling the truth about him.”
Barak also called Netanyahu’s son Yair “a parasite.”
The Daily Mail photographed Barak entering Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse with his face hidden, on the same day in January 2016 that a large group of women were seen entering the home. He explained that his face was covered because it was cold in New York that day.
Barak vowed to sue the newspaper for defamation, in a warning letter his British lawyers wrote to the newspaper.
“The article is disgraceful,” the lawyers wrote. “It makes a number of very serious allegations against, and insinuations about, our client, which are highly defamatory and entirely untrue. Most seriously, you have sought to draw our client into the Epstein affair, suggesting that he is somehow involved in Epstein’s pedophile ring. This is false, as you well know.”
The lawyers complained that the newspaper did not seek a response from Barak. They noted that the article was picked up by news media all over the world.
Barak’s lawyers demanded that in addition to removing the article from the newspaper’s website, a correction and apology be published prominently; a statement together with Barak retracting the article in open court; not republishing the allegations; and that the newspaper “pay our client substantial damages to vindicate his reputation and to compensate him for the serious harm that has been done to his reputation and for the distress, hurt and humiliation that your publication has caused him.”
In his speech, Barak called upon the Labor and Meretz parties to join forces with his party “in order to guarantee Israel’s future.” He attacked Blue and White and its leader, Benny Gantz, for not winning the April election.
“Blue and White didn’t have the energy,” Barak said. “They refused to punch and be punched in order to win. They didn’t have the courage to make decisions or the ability to implement them.”
A Likud spokesman called Barak’s speech “lies.”
Yair Netanyahu, son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, slammed Barak on social media calling him "drunk on whisky" and "suffering from dementia."