Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his son Yair Netanyahu
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his son Yair Netanyahu
PIC: Associated Press (AP)

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 Israeli leader.

A favourite of the prime minister'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.

In the past month alone, he has called to banish minorities from Tel Aviv, tweeted a discredited conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama was born in Kenya and intimated that a critical Israeli broadcast journalist slept her way up to her coveted job.

But his toughest broadsides have been directed at the Israeli media, judiciary and law enforcement for conducting what he has called a leftist, ideological crusade to topple his father.

He's called for the attorney general 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," said Raviv Drucker, a well-respected investigative TV reporter and favorite target of the Netanyahus.

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