Netanyahu vs. Olmert: Trial to open in libel case between former PMs

Benjamin, Sara and Yair Netanyahu are demanding NIS 837,000 in compensation after being called ‘mentally ill’ by ex-premier Ehud Olmert, who wants them evaluated by a psychiatrist

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)

Two former prime ministers will meet on Monday in the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, where Benjamin Netanyahu and his family will be pursuing a libel suit against Ehud Olmert.

In May, Netanyahu’s family filed a defamation lawsuit against Olmert for calling the then-prime minister, his wife Sara, and eldest son Yair “mentally ill” in interviews.

The suit 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.”

In two separate interviews, one with Channel 12 and another with the news site Democrat TV, Olmert leveled criticism at Netanyahu and said that “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,” Olmert told the news site in April.

In response to the lawsuit, Olmert said at the time that he was “amused by the band of wackos.”

Olmert has argued in his defense that his opinion reflects the atmosphere in parts of the public, and also that the words he used were not slander.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara and their son Yair (L); former prime minister Ehud Olmert (R). (Flash90)

He is also asking the court to allow him to have a psychiatrist of his choice evaluate the Netanayahus.

The hearing will open at 9 a.m. sharp, as judge Amit Yariv made clear on Sunday when he rejected a request from Netanyahu to delay the opening to 10 a.m. in order to account for delays due to security.

The judge rejected the request, noting that the time and date had been set back in late October, but Netanyahu waited until a day in advance to request a delay.

“The way to avoid delays caused by security arrangements is, of course, to leave home earlier,” Yariv wrote.

Yariv noted that any parties to the case who do not appear in court at the appointed hour would be considered to be violating his order setting the hearing date for Monday.

Neither Olmert nor Netanyahu is a stranger to court.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a court hearing in his trial, November 16, 2021, in Jerusalem. (Jack Guez/AFP)

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 separate corruption cases. Netanyahu 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.

In Case 4000, the most serious against the former premier, he is alleged to have worked to illicitly and lucratively benefit the business interests of controlling shareholder of the Bezeq media company Shaul Elovitch in exchange for positive coverage on the Walla news site owned by Elovitch.

In Case 2000, Netanyahu is accused of attempting to reach a quid pro quo with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes for positive media coverage in exchange for legislation weakening rival newspaper Israel Hayom.

In Case 1000, he is accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts from two billionaires — Hollywood-based Israeli movie mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian magnate James Packer.

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.

Netanyahu and his family have also been involved in several libel cases in recent years, both as defendants and as plaintiffs.

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