Israeli court rules journalist defamed Netanyahus with Facebook post

The case surrounded a controversy post about Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu fighting on the highway.

June 11, 2017 10:03
3 minute read.

Israeli court rules journalist defamed Netanyahus with facebook post (credit: REUTERS)

Israeli court rules journalist defamed Netanyahus with facebook post (credit: REUTERS)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court fined journalist Yigal Sarna NIS 115,000 on Sunday for asserting on Facebook that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was kicked out of his car by his wife in 2015.

The judge ruled that Sarna, who writes for Yediot Aharonot, violated journalism standards by not asking the Netanyahus for a response before posting his claims on Facebook.

“This failure cancels his defense” that he wrote the story “in good faith,” the judge said.

Sarna’s March 2015 Facebook post said that Sara Netanyahu kicked her husband out of his car during a fight, forcing the couple’s caravan of cars to pull over on Route 1 and requiring the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency)’s help to separate them.

The Netanyahus denied the story and sued Sarna for the maximum in defamation damages of NIS 280,000.

The NIS 115,000 granted to the Netanyahus for the damage to their reputations from Sarna’s post is broken down into NIS 60,000 for the prime minister, NIS 40,000 for Sara and NIS 15,000 for lawyers’ fees and costs.

The court said that it was clear from a variety of Sarna’s postings that he related to the Netanyahus “with a strong and deep hatred” and that his goal was to “harm the plaintiffs and degrade them.”

The Netanyahus responded to the decision saying, “Finally, justice has been done.”

Sarna defiantly vowed to appeal and characterized the court decision as chilling criticism of Netanyahu and of the ruling coalition.

Overall, the court accepted the Netanyahus’ word against the word of Sarna about the story, with the Netanyahus making a rare appearance in court in March to testify that the alleged incident never happened.

The court did not accept Sarna’s claim that he had properly verified the story with a source within the prime minister’s personal detail. It pointed out that Sarna did not reveal his source and that his source did not testify on his behalf.

According to the court, this left Sarna having possibly written a story based on an anonymous source who was perhaps passing on to Sarna a story second-hand.

The judge wrote that Sarna should not have published the story without further verifying it and at least getting a response from the Netanyahus.

The judge did not appear to cut Sarna much slack for his 35 years of experience as a journalist in terms of being able to sniff out what stories were true and what were not.

The court also did not allow him a defense based on the idea that he needed to protect his source and that the source could not come forward without facing serious personal consequences.

In court, the prime minister said that part of the reason he filed the lawsuit was to protect the Shin Bet’s reputation from allegations that it had to separate the couple and was taking orders from Sara.

The prime minister continued to firmly deny Sarna’s allegation in his March testimony. “It never was and never could have been,” Netanyahu said, and called the story a “lie” and an “insane attempt to besmirch my family’s name.”

When Sarna was pressed as to why he revised some details from his original story in later posts, he said that – while he was 100% sure there had been a fight, that the prime minister got out of the car on Route 1 and that agents had to intervene – he was less sure of other details.

“I was not sure whether the prime minister left the car himself or whether his wife threw him out, whether they were driving toward Jerusalem or toward Tel Aviv,” Sarna explained – leading to laughter in the courtroom.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Thai workers collect freshly harvested fennel near Kibbutz Alumim in southern Israe
June 25, 2019
How a religious farmer became a promoter of assisted suicide in Israel


Cookie Settings