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Olmert doubles down on calling Netanyahus ‘mentally ill’ in response to lawsuit

Ex-PM denies that saying his predecessor and family have mental health problems is defamation, calls for them to undergo psychiatric tests

Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and former prime minister Ehud Olmert, left, attend the funeral of Likud MK Zeev Boim in Binyamina, March 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Moti Milrod, Pool)
Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and former prime minister Ehud Olmert, left, attend the funeral of Likud MK Zeev Boim in Binyamina, March 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Moti Milrod, Pool)

A lawyer for former prime minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday submitted a defense letter to a lawsuit filed by ex-premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s family members against him for calling them mentally ill.

Along with citing a number of procedural arguments for dismissing the suit, Olmert doubled down on his claim that Netanyahu, his wife Sara and eldest son Yair have mental health issues and need treatment.

He called for them to hand over their medical records to the court and undergo psychiatric evaluations, while claiming the claim reflected widespread opinion in both Israel and abroad, “particularly among world leaders.”

Olmert rejected the suit’s premise that calling the Netanyahus mentally ill in interviews was defamation.

“In his view and certainly in the context being discussed, the conjunction ‘mentally ill’ is not a derogatory term at all,” the letter, signed by his lawyer Amir Tytunovich, said. “The defendant would not conceive of uttering this conjunction to curse, humiliate or insult anyone, particularly the plaintiffs.”

It added: “The defendant’s remarks were made innocently out of real apprehension over the State of Israel’s future.”

Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, his wife, Sara (c), and their son Yair, during a meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (not pictured), at Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem on December 8, 2013. (Haim Zach/GPO/Flash90/File)

The letter also appeared to take several personal swipes at Netanyahu and his family, charging that they “are not known for paying with money from their own pockets” and noting his predecessor is no longer premier, as he is referred to in the lawsuit. However, Netanyahu was prime minister when the suit was filed, before Naftali Bennett replaced him last month after Netanyahu’s political rivals put together a Knesset coalition to oust him.

The suit, which was filed in May, seeks NIS 837,000 (some $257,000) in damages for Olmert’s “obsessive efforts to harm their good name in public, out of jealously and deep frustration.”

Olmert, who led the Kadima party, served as premier prior to Netanyahu, leaving office in 2008 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 alleged to have abused his own powers when he served as premier and is on trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. The ex-premier, who is now opposition leader, denies wrongdoing.

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