Netanyahu family in court: Olmert demands evidence to challenge Sara's mental health

The Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court judge unlikely to approve the motion, but the two sides could have extended court fight.

 Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara and his son Yair attend a preliminary hearing of the defamation lawsuit filed by them against Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in Magistrate Court in Tel Aviv, Israel, January 10, 2022. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/POOL VIA REUTERS)
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara and his son Yair attend a preliminary hearing of the defamation lawsuit filed by them against Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in Magistrate Court in Tel Aviv, Israel, January 10, 2022.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/POOL VIA REUTERS)

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert filed a motion on Sunday with the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court asking it to compel the Netanyahu family to disclose any details that could prove any of them have had a mental illness.

Olmert’s motion was especially zoned in on an alleged private flight paid for by third parties for Sara Netanyahu to Austria to cope with a mental breakdown and which was covered up by Yair Netanyahu to avoid negative media coverage.

His motion came after the January 10 opening of the defamation trial of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family against Olmert, including NIS 837,000 of alleged damages for statements against the Netanyahus’ mental health in two April 2021 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. The Netanyahu family must respond by February 2.

 Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at defamation lawsuit against former prime minister Ehud Olmert, January 10, 2021.  (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV) Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at defamation lawsuit against former prime minister Ehud Olmert, January 10, 2021. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Additional questions that Olmert lawyer Amir Titanovich 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 that 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 asked 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 if this related to his mental instability.

Another question asked Yair if he had a pattern of suddenly fasting when angry with his parents.

Next, Olmert asked if any of the Netanyahus or their messengers ever attacked others as mentally ill (Yair is known for a highly aggressive style on Twitter) verbally or on social media.

He also asked if others, besides him and who were not being sued, had attacked Benjamin Netanyahu as he was trying to form a new government in the spring of 2021.

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.

One of Olmert’s interviews was on April 12, 2021, to Democrat TV and the second interview was on April 21, 2021, 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 one million shekels 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 laughed when one of his interviewers warned him he might be losing NIS 1 million.

Olmert’s initial comment was made 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 remarked, adding, “Under regular circumstances, any psychiatrist with a healthy conscience... would tell you that they need to be hospitalized. They are sick people.”