'I Am Not Mentally Ill,' Sara Netanyahu Says at Libel Trial Against Former PM Olmert

Netanyahu claims Olmert sought to hurt his election chances as the two former Israeli prime ministers face off at a Tel Aviv court

Ran Shimoni
Ran Shimoni
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Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Tel Aviv District Court, Sunday.
Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Tel Aviv District Court, Sunday.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Ran Shimoni
Ran Shimoni

Opposition chairman and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu testified Sunday morning on a slander suit filed by his family against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The Netanyahu family sued Olmert after he said they were mentally ill. Netanyahu told the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court that Olmert’s remarks against his family “had the clear intention of harming our chances to be elected and sullied an entire public of the psychiatrically ill.”

Netanyahu's wife, Sara, also testified at the hearing. Asked to address the claims regarding her mental health, she said: "I am not sick with [mental illness], I help other people thanks to my position [as the prime minister's spouse].

She explained her decision to sue Olmert: "I felt that a red line had been crossed because this is not a journalist but a former prime minister. Everything that was said is just a bunch of lies, so I told myself, okay, this is enough to file a lawsuit."

“This is a complete lie,” Netanyahu told attorney Yossi Cohen, who represents his family. “There was something here I have never in my life encountered. This was not said as an opinion or as slander, but stating a clinical fact. The former prime minister spoke as if he had information of some sort as if sharing a secret. I state these things here: I have no psychiatric history.”

Ten witnesses are to testify Sunday at the request of Olmert, who is represented by attorney Amir Titonovich. In addition to Olmert and Netanyahu, psychologist Prof. Shaul Kimhi, former chairman of the National Security Council, Prof. Uzi Arad, former Netanyahu spokesman Nir Hefetz, former household staff person Silvi Genesia and the family’s personal physician, Dr. Zvi Berkowitz, will also give testimony.

The Netanyahu family is suing Olmert for 837,000 shekels ($246,590) after he called them mentally ill and refused to apologize thereafter on a number of occasions. In the defense brief submitted to the court he stated that the Netanyahu family had undergone psychological treatment and therefore the slander suit for calling them “mentally ill” should be thrown out. In the defense brief he stated that he had “spoken the truth.”

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

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 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.

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