image Photo: Flash90

Former Israeli PMs face off in court

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared in court yesterday, where he is suing his predecessor Ehud Olmert for defamation.

By Erin Viner

The current political opposition leader filed the lawsuit on allegations of slander after Olmert called Netanyahu, his wife Sara and son Yair “mentally ill” during 2 separate interviews with local media last year.

All 3 family members attended the preliminary hearing, in which they are seeking ₪  837,000 shekels ($269,000) in damages for what Netanyahu said were “ugly, blatant lies.”

The two politicians were onetime political rivals within the Likud party. Olmert, who also served as Mayor of Jerusalem between 1993 and 2003, left the rightwing faction after becoming a Member of Knesset (MK) to join the centrist Kadima formed by Ariel Sharon in 2005. He was then elected Israeli Premier from 2006 to 2009, until stepping down from office amid corruption charges; for which he was eventually convicted and served the majority of a 27-month prison term.

Olmert’s remarks were made in response to his successor’s refusal to resign in the wake of his own indictment on corruption charges last year; amid failure to form a ruling coalition after an unprecedented 4th round of parliamentary elections. Yair Netanyahu has often been a polarizing figure, who is active on social media. His mother Sara has faced multiple lawsuits herself, including allegations of involvement in charges of bribery facing the former premier.

Olmert, who has since withdrawn from the political stage, does not deny making the comments.

He told the court that he made the statements after listening to recordings of the Netanyahus and their elder son, and “consulting with experts and associates” of the family “about behavior that definitely adhered to the definition of what is popularly referred to as ‘crazy and abnormal.’”

Judge Amit Yariv is presiding over the case of the feuding former leaders.

According to a spokesperson for Netanyahu, Judge Yariv has proposed that the sides come to a compromise agreement, in which Olmert would state that his comments about the family’s mental health were only an opinion rather than a fact.

Netanyahu, said the spokesperson, has indicated he would accept the deal, while Olmert’s position remains unclear.