Yesh Atid MK apologizes for saying Netanyahu has ‘mental problems’

Ram Ben Barak tells radio station that opposition leader ‘doesn’t give credit to anyone, it’s all me, me, me’; later says his remarks were ‘out of place’

Ram Ben-Barak leads a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 5, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ram Ben-Barak leads a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 5, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A lawmaker with the Yesh Atid party suggested Sunday that former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “mental problems,” before quickly apologizing for his statement.

Yesh Atid MK Ram Ben Barak spoke to Radio Kol Rega on 96FM, based in Israel’s north. Ben Barak was reacting to the news that the opposition leader had finally agreed to attend a face-to-face security briefing with Prime Minister Yair Lapid — the first since Netanyahu left office more than a year ago.

“I was really happy to see that Prime Minister Lapid was sitting on the correct side of the table, and opposition leader Netanyahu on the other side; that really calmed me,” Ben Barak said.

“[Netanyahu] is the guy who did not give backing to his ministers, he doesn’t give credit to anyone, it’s all ‘me, me, me.’ It’s hard for him in these situations. We understand that he has mental problems of some sort or another.”

Ben Barak, who heads the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, issued an apology after his remarks were picked up and shared widely, saying his comment was “inappropriate and for that I apologize.”

While the law dictates that the opposition leader receives security updates from the prime minister — a procedure that has been followed for years — Netanyahu refused to comply with the protocol over the past year, as he regularly railed against the legitimacy of the outgoing coalition government, led by Naftali Bennett and then Lapid.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu has a briefing on the Israel-Gaza conflict with Prime Minister Yair Lapid, August 7, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Netanyahu is waging an ongoing libel case against former prime minister Ehud Olmert after the latter accused him and his family of being mentally ill and “in need of psychiatric treatment” in two separate interviews last year.

A lawsuit filed by the Netanyahu family seeks NIS 837,000 ($261,000) in damages for Olmert’s “obsessive efforts to harm their good name in public, out of jealousy and deep frustration.”

The sensational case between the two former prime ministers has been marked by fiery testimony and uncomfortable court proceedings as a string of witnesses have made arguments on each side about the mental health of the Netanyahu family.

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