Former Prime Minister Olmert Asks Court to Order Psych Review of the Netanyahus

The Netanyahu family filed a libel suit against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for 837,000 shekels after he claimed that they suffer from mental illness

Ran Shimoni
Ran Shimoni
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Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah as the enter the Tel Aviv Magistrate court in 2017.
Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah as the enter the Tel Aviv Magistrate court in 2017.Credit: Heidi Levine/Pool photo via AP
Ran Shimoni
Ran Shimoni

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has asked a court to order psychiatric evaluations of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara and his son Yair as part of their ongoing libel case.

The Netanyahu family sued Olmert for libel after he said publicly that all three were mentally ill and refused to apologize.

In the request submitted to the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Sunday, Olmert also sought the disclosure of “any relevant documents in anyone’s possession.” His lawyer, Amir Tytunovich, told Haaretz that the defense assumes the family has evidence of their own mental health status.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sits in the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court in January. Credit: Atef Safadi/Pool Photo via AP

However, the court is unlikely to approve either part of Olmert’s request.

As a corollary to his request, Olmert sent all three Netanyahus questionnaires about their mental health. The questionnaires asked them to list all occasions since 1996 when they sought psychological treatment or took psychiatric drugs, and whether any competent professional had ever determined that any of them had a mental health problem.

The questionnaire also asked them to state their permanent address, since the Netanyahus refused to list their address as part of the legal proceedings. Instead, they used their lawyer’s office as their address.

The questionnaire for Sara Netanyahu asked specifically about her former lawyer Jacob Weinroth’s claim that she suffered from mental illness, which he raised while trying to persuade the attorney general to dismiss a case against her for financial improprieties at the prime minister’s official residence. Netanyahu was serving as prime minister at that time.

Yair Netanyahu was asked whether he concealed his mother’s hospitalization at an Austrian facility from the public; why she flew to Austria for treatment on a private plane rather than a commercial flight; whether it’s true that he hasn’t held a permanent job since 2015 due to mental health issues; and whether it’s true that he periodically stops eating when he’s in a bad mood, primarily when he’s angry at his parents.

But at a preliminary hearing on the case, Judge Amit Yariv stressed that the main issue in the trial “isn’t the question of whether the plaintiffs are or aren’t healthy. The question is whether, when the defendant said what he said, he had grounds for it.”

Yariv seems unlikely to grant Olmert’s request. Olmert’s lawyers tried to get around this by arguing in the request that for his statements to be deemed true, and therefore not libelous, it’s not necessary for Olmert to have had proof of this at the time he made them.

As for Yariv’s accusation that the case was turning into “a media circus,” the request said Olmert had no desire for this to happen.

“We submitted this request with a heavy heart and without wanting to very much,” Tytunovich said. Nevertheless, he added, the request “underscores the fact that everyone is equal before the law” and the Netanyahus aren’t entitled to any special treatment.

The Netanyahus sued Olmert for 837,000 shekels over two interviews. In the first, given to DemocraTV, he said, “what isn’t fixable is the mental illness of the prime minister, his wife and his son.” In the second, given to Channel 12 about a week later, the interviewers asked if he wanted to amend this statement, and he refused.

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