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FILE PHOTO: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) reads a prayer with Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz (L) as his son Yair (R) stands next to him, at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem's Old City March 18, 2015. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo(reuters_tickers)
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday defended his son over drunken remarks made between visits to strip clubs and taped illicitly that drew criticism for being derogatory of women.
The recording, aired late on Monday by Israeli Hadashot News, was made in 2015 while Netanyahu's son, Yair, toured strip clubs in Tel Aviv while partying with two friends.
In it, Yair Netanyahu and his friends are heard teasing each other on who has paid for what during their night out on the town. When one of the friends tells Yair he spotted him 400 Shekels (about £85.07), Yair says: "No, that was for the hooker."
In other portions of the recording Yair offers "to arrange" an ex-girlfriend for his friend in order to settle his debts, appears to rate strippers' skills and appearances and is embarrassed by a late-night phone-call from his mother.
Yair issued a statement in which he said the news report was salacious, the recording illegal and that he was inebriated at the time.
"I said ridiculous things about women and about other people, which should not have been said. These things do not represent me, the values I was raised on and what I believe in. I regret these and apologise to anyone hurt by them," said the statement, quoted in Israeli media.
The recording has made headlines in Israel, where Yair was criticised for using a state-funded car and driver to take him around strip clubs along with his state-funded security guard.
"This is terrible moral bankruptcy. Debased, disgusting, rude behaviour objectifying women while accompanied by a car and security funded by the state," opposition lawmaker Shelly Yachimovich said on Facebook.
Speaking with reporters in Jerusalem on Tuesday, the prime minister said his son was right to apologise. "My wife and I raised our children to respect any person and to respect all women," Netanyahu said.
One of the friends Netanyahu was with is the son of an Israeli businessman, Kobi Maimon, who has a stake in Israel's offshore natural gas fields. At the time of the recording Netanyahu's government was finalising a deal for their development.
"Bro, my dad just arranged 20 billion dollars for your dad and you can't spot me 400 Shekels?" Yair told his friend jokingly as laughter was heard.
In a written response issued to the report on Monday, Netanyahu said he was unaware of his son's friendship with Maimon and that it had no bearing on the gas deal, nor did Yair have any knowledge of it.
He called the report wicked gossip and said the media was hounding his family as part of a campaign against his right-wing government.
Netanyahu, who has a sometimes adversarial relationship with Israeli media, is under police investigation for alleged corruption in two criminal cases. He denies wrongdoing.
The 26-year-old Yair Netanyahu has found himself the centre of controversy in the past.
In September he drew anger in Israel and abroad for posting a cartoon using what the Anti-Defamation League, which monitors anti-Semitism worldwide, described as anti-Semitic imagery in a Facebook post mocking some of his father’s critics.
In August, he made another headline-grabbing post after a protester was killed during a white nationalist rally in the U.S. state of Virginia, that suggested hard-left organizations pose more of a danger than neo-Nazi groups.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Angus MacSwan)