Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, have won a defamation lawsuit against an Israeli journalist over a Facebook post he wrote claiming that the first lady had booted the premier out of the car in an official convoy after a heated argument.
On Sunday, an Israeli magistrates court ordered the journalist, Igal Sarna, to pay the Israeli leader and his wife $28,300 for writing the post. The judge ruled that the post, at least in part, was “malicious and ugly, intended to humiliate and shame the plaintiffs.”
Sarna, who works for popular Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, had written the short note on his personal Facebook page in 2015.
According to a report in Israeli daily Haaretz, the damning post had read: “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.” Sarna also surmised that this behavior “makes a mockery of all the security and in fact all the country” and added in his criticism of the Netanyahus. “Make every possible sound so we don’t hear everything going up in the flames of madness. Beat the drums,” he wrote.
In March, the Netanyahus took Sarna to court, claiming damages for libel. They vehemently denied the incident he described.
“Everything Sarna said was a lie. It didn’t happen,” the prime minister said on the stand. “Anyone who knows anything about motorcade security knows that something like that can’t happen.”
Sara Netanyahu also spoke in court, calling the post “horrendous.” She said that she has often been the victim of Israeli media ridicule.
During the trial, Sarna refused to reveal his source, saying only that he had verified the story. He said he had not offered it to his newspaper, however, because it was not big enough to constitute a full article, Israeli media reported at the time.
Reacting to the verdict Sunday, Sarna said in a Facebook post that he would appeal: “This kind of verdict is what is expected during these dark days. But this is just the beginning of the fight.”
A statement from the Netanyahus after the ruling said simply, “Justice is finally done.”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Ruth Eglash