Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court deputy president Amit Yariv on Wednesday rejected the vast majority of former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s motion to compel the Netanyahu family to disclose any details which could prove that any of them have had a mental illness.
The court did require the Netanyahus to answer non-private health questions, though these answers also might be less helpful to Olmert’s defense of the defamation lawsuit filed against him by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Essentially, the court accepted Netanyahu’s argument that Olmert’s motion was an attempt at fishing for evidence that he did not have to defend himself against charges that he defamed the Netanyahus when he called them mentally ill in two April 2021 interviews.
Netanyahu had gone even further and called the Olmert requests extortion to invade personal details which constitutional privacy provisions protect from disclosure in order to deter the Netanyahus from continuing with the lawsuit.
Additional points that Netanyahu argued, and which the court endorsed, were that standard defamation law requires Olmert to prove his claims about the Netanyahus based only on what he knew at the time he made those claims, not based on acquiring new information from them.
He even noted that at a prior court hearing, the court tried to convince Olmert to drop his defense that what he had claimed was true and focus instead on a defense that he was only expressing a political opinion and not trying to state facts.
Further, Netanyahu said that Olmert was cherry-picking or mischaracterizing various past precedents to support this request for their mental health records.
Olmert’s January 23 motion focused especially on an alleged private flight paid for by third parties for Sara Netanyahu to Austria to cope with a mental breakdown, which was covered up by Yair Netanyahu to avoid negative media coverage.
His motion came after the January 10 opening of the Netanyahus' defamation trial against him, including NIS 837,000 of alleged damages for statements against the Netanyahus’ mental health in the two interviews.
DESPITE ATTEMPTS by the court to reach a settlement that would avoid the need for a trial, and some initial flexibility by both sides, the former prime ministers eventually dug in their heels for the long haul of what promises to be a memorable legal conflagration.
Since there was no settlement, Olmert filed his motion to try to build his evidentiary claims that the Netanyahus have had mental illnesses, leading to Wednesday’s Netanyahu response.
Additional questions that Olmert lawyer Amir Tytunovich asked the Netanyahus included whether Sara’s former (and now deceased) lawyer Jacob Weinroth had argued that one reason to close the Prime Minister’s Residence fraud probes against her was that she was mentally ill.
In 2017, Weinroth gave an interview to Uvda which could have been construed as discussing the Netanyahus’ mental health, referring to himself as sometimes “acting like a part-time psychiatrist” for them and describing techniques he used to calm them down when they got extremely upset.
Other questions were about whether any of the three Netanyahus had ever used psychiatric drugs or treatment for ADD or ADHD or for controlling physical trembling.
Zoning in on Yair, Olmert asked if he had managed to hold down a full-time job consistently since 2015 and, if the answer was no, whether this related to his alleged mental instability.
It was unclear if the Netanyahus might need to answer aspects of this question.
Another question asked Yair if he had a pattern of suddenly fasting when angry with his parents for something.
Next, Olmert asked if any of the Netanyahus or their messengers ever attacked others as mentally ill verbally or on social media (Yair is known for a highly aggressive style on Twitter).
He also asked if others besides him who were not being sued had attacked Benjamin Netanyahu as he was trying to form a new government in Spring 2021.
It was expected that the Netanyahus would need to answer these questions.
Olmert's point seemed to relate to his second defense that even if the Netanyahus are sane, he was only using a metaphorical expression to declare how unfit he thought Benjamin Netanyahu was to return to being prime minister.
OLMERT'S FIRST interview was on April 12, 2021 to Democrat TV and the second interview was on April 21 on the Ophira and Berkowitz TV program.
During the first interview, Olmert called the Netanyahu family “mentally ill.”
Within days, the Netanyahus had threatened to sue Olmert for NIS 1 million if he did not retract his statement.
In contrast, during the second interview, Olmert doubled down on his characterization of the Netanyahu family, explicitly refused to retract and laughing when one of his interviewers warned him he might be losing NIS 1 million.
Olmert’s initial comment was said during an interview given to Democrat TV, in which he heavily criticized the current government and its conduct during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We had NIS 100 billion to hand out as unpaid leave grants... if we had invested 10% of that in the public health system in the past two or three years, we would be in a completely different situation!” he said.
“What can’t be fixed is the mental illness of the prime minister and his wife and son,” he said, adding that “under regular circumstances, any psychiatrist with a healthy conscience... would tell you that they need to be hospitalized. They are sick people.”
The court also set dates in March and April for the sides to produce witness lists, setting early June as the start of calling witnesses.