Netanyahu takes the stand in libel case against journalist

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu testified in a Tel Aviv libel suit Tuesday that his wife did not expel him from a motorcade, as a journalist had reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara enter the Tel Aviv Magistrate court on March 14, in Tel Aviv, Israel. The Netanyahus are suing Israeli journalist Igal Sarna for libel. Pool photo by Heidi Levine/UPI | License Photo
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara enter the Tel Aviv Magistrate court on March 14, in Tel Aviv, Israel. The Netanyahus are suing Israeli journalist Igal Sarna for libel. Pool photo by Heidi Levine/UPI | License Photo

Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu claim $76,000 in damages in the suit against Igal Sarna, a journalist at Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. A Facebook post by Sarna said Sara Netanyahu threw her husband from a four-car motorcade during a 2015 argument. The high-profile case brings together two of Israel’s most prominent political dramas, the British newspaper The Guardian noted – Netanyahu’s long-running conflict with the media, and his wife’s reputed temper.

In court Tuesday, Netanyahu denied that he’d argued with his wife during a motorcade between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and denied that he was removed from the motorcade.

“Anyone who knows anything about motorcade security knows that something like that can’t happen,” he said, adding, “Everything Sarna said was a lie, it didn’t happen.”

“It’s hard to follow so much crazy, surreal slander. I have other business to attend to. I can’t even dedicate a moment of my time to this deluge. If I had to sue Mr. Sarna for every slanderous remark I’d spend all my time in court.”

While the accusation is minor in comparison to other alleged scandals – Israeli media have said the prime minister has received gifts of champagne, jewelry and cigars from wealthy benefactors – the Netanyahus have proceeded with the case against their long-time nemesis.

Sarna wrote that “it’s part of life” when “the prime minister’s hefty convoy stops at night (it happened) − four black vehicles and more and more security men, guards and cars − and a not-so-young man is ejected with shouts into the darkness on Route 1 because one woman doesn’t want him to remain with her in the car,” the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

Sara Netanyahu later testified that her public service activities are never reported, and that Sarna’s Facebook post had “no connection to reality.”

Testifying prior to the Netanyahus, Sarna said he had four sources for his information regarding the motorcade, one a friend of a member of the Netanyahu security detail. He added that he posted the story on Facebook and not through the newspaper because he regarded it a small matter, conceding there were aspects of the story of which he was uncertain.

“I hadn’t known whether Sara threw Bibi out of car, or if he left of his own accord,” Sarna said to laughter in the court, using Benjamin Netanyahu’s nickname.

By Ed Adamczyk