Israel’s Netanyahu wins defamation suit against ex-premier Olmert

TEL AVIV – Israel’s prime-minister designate Benjamin Netanyahu won his lawsuit against ex-premier Ehud Olmert on Monday, with a Tel Aviv judge ruling Olmert defamed the Netanyahu family by branding them mentally ill. 

Olmert became prime minister in 2006 but stepped down in 2009 as he faced corruption allegations. He was replaced by Netanyahu that year and the acrimony between them has deepened since. 

In an interview in April last year, Olmert alleged that Netanyahu, his wife Sara and son Yair all suffered from “mental illness”.

Netanyahu, who is currently on trial over corruption allegations which he denies, sued Olmert for defamation. 

Olmert had claimed in court that he was voicing an opinion, not seeking to offer a diagnosis without a medical basis. 

But judge Amit Yariv ruled in favour of Netanyahu, stating that “calling someone mentally ill can be humiliating for a person.” 

Olmert was ordered to pay the 62,500 Israeli shekels ($18,000) in damages.

Praising the verdict, Netanyahu’s lawyer Yossi Cohen said “another plot of lies” levelled against the family had been “shattered”.

The legal spat between two former premiers attracted wide media attention in Israel and the verdict comes as Netanyahu is poised to clinch his promised return to power. 

After replacing Olmert in 2009, Netanyahu served until 2021, a record tenure. He then spent 14 months in opposition but won a convincing victory in November 1 election. 

His Likud party and its allies — two ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties and a rising extreme-right alliance called Religious Zionism — now control 64 of the 120 seats in Israel’s parliament. 

Netanyahu is holding coalition talks with his allies that are expected to lead to the creation of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history. – AFP