Ehud Olmert, Benjamin & Sara Netanyahu
Ehud Olmert, Benjamin & Sara NetanyahuMoshe Shai & Marc Israel Sellem/FLASH90

On Sunday, the Tel Aviv District Court opened proceedings in the defamation case against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is being sued by the Netanyahu family for accusing them of being "mentally ill" and stating that his observation was based on actual clinical data.

The hearing will open with testimony from Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu as well as their son Yair, who was also accused by Olmert of being mentally disturbed. The Netanyahus are demanding compensation of 837,000 shekels.

"These publications [in an interview with Olmert] are total lies and fabrication," said Benjamin Netanyahu. "When Olmert said 'mentally ill,' he did not say that he was not presenting his personal opinion, for instance, as one politician commonly says of another, 'you're a psycho,' or, 'you're nuts.' Rather, he presented it as a clinical observation. When a former prime minister says such a thing of a serving prime minister, the aim is to cause damage. I've never seen other world leaders conduct themselves in such a manner," he added.

"Since Olmert stubbornly insisted that he was not simply stating his personal opinion and that he was giving established clinical fact, we decided to sue," he continued. "This was an attempt to harm an entire sector of those with mental ill-health. And as a practical issue, it is simply untrue, neither regarding myself, nor regarding my family members."

Asked why he refused to reveal his medical records to disprove the allegations, Netanyahu responded, "Here in court I say categorically that I have no psychiatric history. The burden of proof is on you."

Attorney Amir Titanovitch, representing Olmert, asked Netanyahu if he had ever summoned Dr. Tzvi Herman Berkovitch when his wife, Sara, had uncontrollable "fits." Netanyahu replied, "I don't recall a single 'fit.' Sometimes people are tense, under stress, and then they calm down by talking it out with friends." Asked if his wife had ever taken psychiatric medication, Netanyahu said, "I don't know of any such thing. I am not aware that she ever took sedatives."

Sara Netanyahu then called out to the judge, "But they're talking about me. Is this how it works - you ask us to comment on each other?" Attorney Titanovitch got up to object, but the judge explained that Sara Netanyahu was permitted to speak if she wished, to which she responded, "I apologize."

Attorney Titanovitch then cited comments made by former U.S. President Barack Obama, who is known to have said that Netanyahu "only cares about his political survival," and called him a "coward." Why, asked Titanovitch, did Netanyahu not sue members of the Obama administration for defamation?

Netanyahu replied, "In political life, making defamatory statements is usual, and people know they are baseless. Olmert, however, did not say that I was 'crazy' but claimed to be making a clinical determination, and in doing so, he crossed the boundary [of acceptable behavior]. And since he was a former premier, people are likely to think that he knows what he's talking about."

He added, "When Olmert was given the opportunity to recant, and qualify his words as being merely his personal opinion, he refused."