Olmert (r), Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu (l)
Olmert (r), Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu (l) Moshe Shai & Marc Israel Sellem/FLASH90

Hearings began Monday morning in a slander lawsuit filed by Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The trial opened at the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court, with Olmert, Benjamin Netanyahu and Sara Netanyahu arriving in court, after the presiding judge rejected a request by the Netanyahus to appear remotely via video.

The judge, Amit Yariv, angrily rejected the last-minute request by the Netanyahus, who filed a motion 24 hours before the hearing, requesting the right to appear by video, citing the rising number of COVID cases in Israel.

“A request like that should have been filed earlier, not 24 hours before the date of the hearing.”

The lawsuit, filed last May, revolves around comments Olmert made during an interview with Democracy TV in which he claimed that Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara, and their son, Yair, suffered from “mental illness”.

The Netanyahus are seeking 837,000 shekels ($256,360) in damages.

During Monday’s hearing, Judge Yariv asked Olmert what was the context of his comments regarding the Netanyahus’ mental state.

“I had heard recordings of the family members, and I consulted with experts who know them and who testified about behaviors that fall under the category of what is popularly called abnormal insane behavior.”

Attorney Yossi Cohen, who represents the Netanyahu family, said during the hearing that: “In another country, they would have arrested Olmert.”

Judge Yariv responded, saying: “Thank God we don’t live in that country.”