Meni Naftali stands outside the Petah Tikva police station in April.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
At the request of the attorney-general, the Herzliya Magistrate’s Court on Thursday froze a defamation case against the Netanyahu family’s legal team, which was filed by their former house manager.
Meni Naftali was the Netanyahus’ house manager from February 2011 until November 2012 and has become one of their main public legal adversaries over the last few years.
The current defamation case was filed by Naftali in 2015 against lawyers, public relations advisers and pro-Netanyahu family witnesses for negative comments they made against him.
However, the case did not move forward to witnesses testifying until earlier this week when Naftali and other key witnesses testified.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit filed a request with the court on Thursday morning to freeze the case for 10 days until his office could decide whether it needs to be frozen indefinitely pending a criminal case against Sara Netanyahu and others.
As part of the request, Mandelblit revealed for the first time that Sara Netanyahu’s hearing – her last chance to avoid an indictment – is set for January 17.
The Attorney-General’s Office announced in September that he was likely to indict Mrs. Netanyahu in the Prime Minister’s Residence Affairs.
One of the other suspects that Mandelblit plans to indict in the affairs along with Sara Netanyahu is former deputy director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office Ezra Seidoff.
Seidoff is also a witness in Naftali’s defamation case. In addition, Naftali himself is expected to be a key witness in the expected criminal case against Sara Netanyahu and Seidoff.
Any testimony Naftali and Seidoff give in the defamation case could be used later in the criminal cases.
Accordingly, Mandelblit said his office needed to evaluate whether the continuation of the defamation case needs to be frozen if they determined that it could only go forward after the criminal case was concluded so as not to negatively impact the criminal case.
The Attorney-General’s Office apologized about not knowing that the Naftali defamation case had reached the point of bringing witnesses to testify until it read about some of the testimony in news reports.
The court said it might not grant an indefinite freeze, especially since all of Naftali’s witnesses had already testified, but that it would grant at least a temporary freeze until mid-February to allow the attorney-general to catch up on case developments.
In the past, Naftali won a labor court judgment because of Sara Netanyahu’s treatment of him, but lost a defamation case against the prime minister.