Journalist ordered to pay Netanyahu damages for libel
JERUSALEM: An Israeli court Sunday awarded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife $32,500 in a libel case over a journalist’s claim she kicked him out of the car during a row.
Court documents said writer Igal Sarna was ordered to pay 60,000 shekels ($17,000, 15,000 euros) in damages to Netanyahu and 40,000 shekels to his wife Sara, as well as a further 15,000 shekels for the couple’s court costs.
They had sued for 280,000 shekels.
The 50-page ruling said Sarna wrote in March 2016 on his Facebook page that the couple had been travelling at night in a four-vehicle convoy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv when it suddenly came to a halt.
“A man, no longer young, was cast out onto the highway amid shouting,” the transcript quoted Sarna as writing.
“A certain woman did not wish him to remain with her in the car, and so made a mockery of all the security and in fact of the whole state.”
Appearing in court with his wife in March 2017, surrounded by bodyguards, Netanyahu said the story was a fabrication, describing it as “so false, so absurd”.
In Sunday’s ruling, Judge Azaria Alkalai found Sarna’s allegations were not substantiated by witnesses.
In March, Sarna said the sources for his account had refused to go public. He said his sources “do not want to come. I cannot force them to come.”
The Netanyahus are a frequent topic of gossip and rumours among Israelis, and the premier said he wanted the truth to be known in this instance.
The couple are also the subject of ongoing police investigations into suspicions of corruption and misuse of public funds.