The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court ruled on Sunday that former prime minister Ehud Olmert and State Attorney Moshe Lador will commence a three-month arbitration process over a defamation suit Olmert brought against Lador.

If the arbitration process proves unsuccessful, the court will continue to hear the defamation claim, and will rule on Lador’s request to be granted immunity from prosecution, Judge Riva Niv said.

The parties agreed that attorney Amos Gabrieli would act as arbitrator in the case. The arbitration process will commence next week and is expected to last about three months.

Olmert’s lawsuit is based on remarks the state attorney made in a February 2011 interview with Haaretz, which is also named as a respondent in the suit.

In the interview, Lador described a $75,000 loan Olmert had allegedly received from American businessman Josef Elmaliach in 1993 as “extraordinarily scandalous,” and claimed that Olmert had yet to return the money.

After Olmert filed his defamation suit, the state argued that the Lador had immunity from prosecution because he gave the Haaretz interview in his capacity as state attorney. When the Magistrate’s Court rejected Lador’s argument, the state attorney appealed the decision in the Tel Aviv District Court.

In January, however, District Court Judge Eitan Orenstein upheld the Magistrate’s Court ruling, saying that Lador could not be granted immunity from prosecution simply on the grounds that he is a public servant.

Orenstein took issue with the fact that the immunity request claims Lador had not acted maliciously when giving the interview, and said that Deputy Attorney-General Sarit Dana, who made the request, had never actually spoken to Lador about what his “emotional state” had been when he gave the interview.

The judge questioned how the court could determine whether Lador had “malicious intent” when he gave the interview.

Following that January ruling, Dana filed an amended immunity request to the Magistrate’s Court, and the state also filed a request to the Supreme Court for permission to appeal.

In Sunday’s ruling, Niv noted that this will be the second time the parties have attempted mediation; a previous attempt before attorney Yaron Ben David, failed.

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