Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is threatening to sue his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, if he does not apologize and hand over a hefty sum of money for saying the Israeli leader’s family suffers from mental illness.
A spokesman for the Netanyahu family confirmed Monday that the Netanyahus’ attorney sent Olmert the letter of warning in advance of a possible defamation suit.
In an interview last week with Democrat TV, an Israeli news site, Olmert leveled criticism at Netanyahu and said that “what is irreparable is the mental illness of the prime minister, his wife and his son.”
According to Channel 12, the Netanyahu family attorney demanded that Olmert apologize within a week and pay 1 million shekels ($306,000) in damages or face a libel lawsuit.
Olmert showed no signs of backing down Monday, telling Channel 13: “The time has come to tell this family: That’s enough.”
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.
Last year, Olmert made similar criticism against Netanyahu in an interview with Army Radio.
“Netanyahu is a criminal, a scoundrel, a thief. I definitely see him being sent to prison and staying there for quite a few years,” he said in May 2020.
“I wish him to take his wife and his son and his whole crazy family to a place where they will receive adequate therapy,” Olmert added.
Netanyahu is currently on trial for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes, but denies any wrongdoing. He has refused to step down from office while under indictment.
On Monday, Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua described how Netanyahu’s associates ordered him to take down an article about the non-Jewish girlfriend of the premier’s son, as the media executive continued his testimony in one of the criminal cases against Netanyahu.
Yeshua said he was told by the site’s owner Shaul Elovitch to remove the article about Yair Netanyahu’s personal life “at any cost.” According to the indictment against the prime minister, Netanyahu was involved in relaying that message to Elovich.
Netanyahu is alleged to have abused his powers when he served as both premier and communications minister from 2014 to 2017 to illicitly and immensely lucratively affect the business interests of Bezeq’s controlling shareholder Elovich, in exchange for positive coverage of the prime minister and his family by Walla.
The alleged exchanges goes to the heart of Case 4000, the most serious of the three cases against Netanyahu, in which he is charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. Netanyahu has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In addition to his charges in Case 4000, Netanyahu is also charged with fraud and breach of trust in two other cases, one of which also involves suspicions of trading regulatory favors for positive coverage.