A request by former prime minister Ehud Olmert for opposition chief Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara and eldest son Yair to undergo a psychiatric evaluation was rejected on Wednesday by the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court.
The request came in the context of a defamation lawsuit the Netanyahus filed against Olmert for calling them “mentally ill” in interviews. The suit seeks NIS 837,000 (some $261,000) in damages for Olmert’s “obsessive efforts to harm their good name in public, out of jealousy and deep frustration.”
Olmert’s request also sought access to “any relevant documents” about the Netanyahus’ mental health. The request had been seen as a longshot by Olmert’s lawyers that was unlikely to have been approved.
The court said that the request could be a fishing expedition seeking evidence that would retroactively prove Olmert’s claim, and could also serve to embarrass the plaintiffs in an attempt to deter them from pursuing their suit.
The court has ordered the Netanyahus to answer some of the questions in a questionnaire sent by Olmert, but not questions concerning their mental health, accepting their argument that such questions were inappropriate.
Olmert was ordered to pay NIS 7,500 (approximately $2,300) in costs in relation to the request.
Last month, Olmert rejected out of hand the idea that he could apologize to the Netanyahus, arguing that he was expressing a widely held opinion. In interviews he had said, “What is irreparable is the mental illness of the prime minister, his wife, and his son,” referring to Yair Netanyahu. “They are in need of psychiatric treatment.”
He told Channel 12 news that what he had said was mild in comparison to other comments made in recent years about his fellow former premier, saying he was “amused” that, of all the comments, the Netanyahus decided to press charges over his.
“Does someone seriously think I’m a psychiatrist? Of course I expressed an opinion, one that is very popular among the public regarding the family’s conduct — and there have been countless revelations relating to that,” he argued.
He further claimed he had consulted experts before making the remark. “Mental illness is an illness, it requires treatment and mentally ill people should not be offended,” he said. “I just don’t want [the Netanyahus] to be running the country and making decisions on the most fateful issues.”
Neither Olmert nor Netanyahu is a stranger to court.
Olmert preceded Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister, ending his term before being formally indicted on corruption charges. He was convicted of fraud in 2014 and served 16 months of a 27-month prison sentence.
Netanyahu is currently on trial in three corruption cases. He faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in Case 1000 and in Case 2000, and charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in Case 4000.
Netanyahu denies all allegations against him, and says the charges were fabricated by a biased police force and state prosecution service, overseen by a weak attorney general, in league with political opponents and the media.