Former PMs Netanyahu and Olmert face off in ‘mentally ill’ trial

Trial to determine if former prime minister Ehud Olmert will have to pay damages for calling Netanyahu family mentally ill kicks off on Monday morning.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his predecessor Ehud Olmert faced off in an Israeli court on Monday morning, during the opening hearing for a defamation suit filed by the Netanyahu family.

Olmert, who was convicted on corruption charges in 2016 and served nearly a year and a half in prison, called Netanyahu, his wife Sara, and his son Yair mentally ill and said they need psychiatric treatment during multiple media interviews in April 2021.

In response, the Netanyahus filed a defamation lawsuit against Olmert, asking for 837,000 shekels ($257,000) in damages due to his “obsessive efforts to harm their good name in public, out of jealousy and deep frustration.”

After being served, Olmert doubled down on his remarks and told Hebrew language daily Ma’ariv that he was “amused by this band of wackos.”

Olmert told Hebrew language media that his words are not slander, and that he should be allowed to choose a psychiatrist to evaluate the Netanyahus – presumably in the hopes that the mental health professional’s analysis would confirm his claim that the family is mentally ill.

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Netanyahu may have already gotten off on the wrong foot with the judge presiding over the case, after a last minute request to push the starting time of the hearing back by an hour due to the potential delays caused by security arrangements.

Judge Amit Yariv rejected the request and chastised Netanyahu for filing in the day before the trial was set to open, when the starting time of the opening hearing was set in October 2021.

“The way to avoid delays stemming from security arrangements is obviously to leave the house earlier,” Yariv wrote sarcastically in response to the request.

In court on Monday, Olmert told the judge that “I followed their actions, I listened to recordings of the family members, I consulted with experts and with people close to them who know them well. They described to me behavior that … is known as abnormal behavior, crazy behavior.”