Netanyahus File Libel Suit Against Former PM Olmert, Who Called Family 'Mentally Ill'

Former Israeli prime minister said on national television that the prime minister and his family have a 'mental illness' that is 'not fixable'

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Sara Netanyahu.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Sara Netanyahu.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara and their son Yair filed a libel suit on Thursday against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, after the latter said in an interview that all three suffer from incurable mental illness.

The suit, filed in the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, is seeking 837,000 shekels ($257,000) in damages. The suit is based on two incidents. In the first, Olmert told with Gadi Sukenik on Democrat TV last month: “What can’t be fixed is the mental illness of the prime minister and his wife and son. That’s not fixable.” In the second, he refused to amend that statement on Channel 12 television’s "Ofira & Berkovic” program when given the chance.

Cohost Eyal Berkovic then asked, “Why call them mentally ill? Despite everything, you were prime minister and he is prime minister; where’s the respect?”

Olmert replied: “The respect has been lost ... What’s happening here is that we’re living in an atmosphere of insanity, and the ones presiding over the insanity, the obscenities, the smears, the strife and the division and the vengefulness, unparalleled in Israel’s history,” are Netanyahu and his family.

Asked by Berkovic if he hadn’t gone too far, Olmert replied, “Sorry, but this is a family ... They say he’s a liar, a cheat, a fraudster, that it’s impossible to believe a word he says, that he’s crazy.” The hosts subsequently asked him to apologize several more times, but he consistently refused.

In the suit, attorney Yossi Cohen wrote that the Netanyahus had “restrained themselves many times over extremely serious smears against them and filed a handful of suits only because dangerous red lines were crossed that couldn’t be ignored.” But given the “despicableness” of Olmert’s remarks, he stressed, “the magnitude of the damage is very great and justifies suitable financial compensation to the plaintiffs for the harm to their dignity and their reputation.”

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