Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara have been called to testify before the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday as part of their defamation lawsuit against Yedioth Ahronoth journalist Yigal Sarna.
The Netanyahus last year filed a libel suit against Sarna after he alleged in a Facebook post that Sara had stopped the prime minister’s convoy on a major highway and kicked her husband out on the side of the road.
Sarna did not cite a source for his allegations, and his account never appeared in Yedioth Ahronoth.
Nevertheless, the Netanyahus filed a libel suit at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, demanding NIS 279,243 ($72,813) from Sarna over his claims. The reason for that specific amount was never made clear.
The Netanyahus’ lawyer had requested the judge delay the hearing until the summer, but the judge refused.
According to the lawsuit, Sarna “committed a lowly, cynical act.” The couple claimed that Sarna, who is known for his venomous attacks against them on Facebook, “has been carrying on for quite some time with his obsessive attempts to harm the complainants at any cost and to trample their good name out of sheer malice and bad intent.”
Sarna has also emerged as one of the figures in Case 2000, one of the two corruption investigations into Netanyahu.
The case revolves around allegations that Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes attempted to reach a deal whereby the daily would take a more favorable stance toward the prime minister in exchange for the advancement of a bill that would force free daily Israel Hayom, seen as a pro-Netanyahu rival to Yedioth, to contract or disband.
In secretly recorded conversations between the two, Mozes can be heard telling Netanyahu he would be willing to fire Sarna, who sits on the Yedioth editorial board, as a gesture of goodwill.
Netanyahu is also under investigation for allegedly accepting gifts worth hundreds of thousands of shekels from wealthy businessmen.
The investigations have cast a pall over Netanyahu’s term, with some saying an indictment in either case could force him from power.
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.