Netanyahu vs. Olmert: A Lurid Libel Case Grips Israel


TEL AVIV — Benjamin Netanyahu, who left place of work a yr in the past, his spouse, Sara, and their eldest son, Yair, are suing his predecessor as Israel’s high minister, Ehud Olmert, for libel after his description of them as “mentally in poor health” and wanting psychiatric remedy.

Mr. Olmert, for his section, is unapologetic concerning the aspersions he solid at the Netanyahu circle of relatives in two interviews across the time of a sour and inconclusive election within the spring of 2021.

Now the 2 former high ministers — ardent political foes — are combating it out in a lurid defamation trial that some liken to a cleaning soap opera.

On Monday, Israelis had been left to parse the fallout an afternoon after the principle protagonists and different Israeli public figures took the witness stand for greater than 13 hours of testimony rife with bickering, sniping and accusations of quite a few issues afflicting the Netanyahus.

In strange instances, Sunday’s listening to within the Tel Aviv Magistrates’ Courtroom would possibly were disregarded as a from time to time ugly signal of the depths to which Israeli political discourse can sink.

However the libel case is enjoying out simply as the rustic’s present governing coalition, a delicate alliance of 8 ideologically disparate events led via High Minister Naftali Bennett, is teetering on the point of cave in — and Mr. Netanyahu seems with regards to engineering a conceivable comeback.

Every other member of Mr. Bennett’s coalition surrender on Monday, leaving the federal government in keep watch over of most effective 59 seats within the 120-seat Parliament and bringing the possibility of some other election, the 5th in underneath 4 years, ever nearer.

“It was once a fact display,” Gadi Wolfsfeld, a professor of political communications at Reichman College in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv, mentioned of the trial. “Or worse, a cleaning soap opera. It’s unhappy.”

Nonetheless, he mentioned, the court drama was once not likely to have a lot impact at the political panorama.

“Let’s have in mind, there are only a few individuals who don’t have already got a company opinion about Bibi,” he mentioned, relating to Mr. Netanyahu via his nickname. “So for the majority of the inhabitants, it gained’t make a little bit of distinction.”

Neither Mr. Olmert nor Mr. Netanyahu is a stranger to court docket. Mr. Netanyahu, who holds the report as Israel’s longest serving high minister after a complete of 15 years in place of work, is recently on trial within the Jerusalem District Courtroom for corruption. Mr. Olmert, in place of work from 2006 to 2009, was once convicted in 2014 of taking a bribe whilst he was once mayor of Jerusalem and served 16 months in jail.

The most recent court spectacle resurfaced alarming allegations over the pressures Mr. Netanyahu confronted inside his circle of relatives and his lack of ability to resist them, presented this time underneath oath via a few of his closest former advisers.

Because the day of testimony advanced, the wild rumors and reviews of nerve-racking goings-on that accompanied Mr. Netanyahu’s lengthy tenure got an airing as Mr. Olmert’s attorney and witnesses for the protection bandied about references to consuming issues, obsessive-compulsive conduct, out of control tantrums, narcissism and paranoia within the Netanyahu family.

“The testimony heard in court docket Sunday was once nauseating and scary, reviving grim recollections of what we removed precisely 12 months in the past,” Yossi Verter, a political columnist, wrote in Monday’s left-wing Haaretz newspaper.

However Mr. Verter, like different analysts, mentioned none of it was once more likely to do away with Mr. Netanyahu’s die-hard allies and supporters and may just even get advantages him, as he performs the position of a sufferer of persecution.

One political best friend of Mr. Netanyahu’s, Bezalel Smotrich, a far-right lawmaker, wrote in a Twitter publish that he was once “squirming in disgust” on the “satanic baseness” of the efforts to defame the Netanyahu circle of relatives.

The Netanyahus are suing Mr. Olmert for greater than $250,000 in damages as a result of, they mentioned, his characterization of them as mentally in poor health steered he was once privy, as a former high minister, to a couple hidden medical prognosis that didn’t exist and that he had crossed a purple line.

Mr. Olmert’s attorney, Amir Tytunovich, mentioned in an interview that his shopper’s major strains of protection had been that he was once expressing an opinion at a stormy time in Israeli politics, talking “out of emotion and fear for the way forward for the rustic,” and that Mr. Olmert was once telling the reality, although he was once clearly now not providing a certified medical prognosis.

“That is my opinion and I gained’t alternate it,” Mr. Olmert mentioned in a temporary interview with The New York Occasions outdoor the court.

Mr. Netanyahu was once the primary to take the stand on Sunday, ceaselessly turning round to play to the target market, most commonly made up of the Hebrew information media’s prison journalists.

“I don’t have any psychiatric historical past, and the load of evidence is on you, now not me!” he declared as Mr. Olmert sat throughout from him within the small, crowded court.

Sara Netanyahu, an authorized psychologist, categorically denied reviews that she have been hospitalized in a sanitarium in Vienna closing yr, insisting that was once “a lie from begin to end.”

She asserted that an audio tape of her screaming at a publicist over the telephone in 2009 have been “cooked” and “manipulated.” And when Mr. Tytunovich, Mr. Olmert’s attorney, steered that she was once keen on vodka, she retorted that she didn’t drink alcohol however {that a} wholesome inventory of it have been left within the high minister’s place of abode via the former tenant, Mr. Olmert.

Yair Netanyahu, the couple’s elder son, was once faced with a slew of his personal social media posts during which he ascribed psychological sickness to different public figures. Explaining why he had written {that a} former protection minister and Netanyahu rival, Moshe Yaalon, will have to be in a psychiatric establishment, he mentioned, “I sought after to make amusing of his obsession over my father.”

Tamar Almog, the prison commentator for Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, described the lawsuits as “part circus, part preschool.” However Uzi Arad, a witness for the protection who served as Mr. Netanyahu’s nationwide safety adviser and shut confidante sooner than a pointy falling out, mentioned the disorder he had witnessed within the Netanyahu family “exacted a worth from the rustic.”

He described one incident when Mr. Netanyahu left unprepared for a commute to Washington and may just now not be briefed at the airplane as a result of he insisted on sitting with Sara the entire means, combating Mr. Arad from sharing categorized knowledge. In line with Mr. Arad, the lapse ended in an enormous blowup in Mr. Netanyahu’s assembly with Robert M. Gates, the U.S. secretary of protection on the time, prompting the Pentagon to bring to a halt ties with Israel for 2 months.

Nir Hefetz, a former spokesman for Mr. Netanyahu who has grew to become state witness in his corruption trial, informed the court docket of continuous interference via Ms. Netanyahu and her son in nationwide decision-making. He comparable that Yair as soon as burst into a gathering his father was once preserving with different officers, were given down on all fours and wagged his tongue, berating his father in crude phrases for sucking as much as the ones provide.

“I will have to express regret after nowadays?” Mr. Olmert mentioned outdoor the court.

In a Fb publish on Monday, Mr. Netanyahu wrote that Mr. Olmert “introduced former workers who would give false testimony and slander my circle of relatives with a baseless blood libel.”

The attorneys for the perimeters will have to now sum up their arguments sooner than the pass judgement on reaches a verdict, the timing for which isn’t but scheduled.





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