Journalist ordered to pay Netanyahu $32,500 in damages over claim wife pushed him out of car

TEL AVIV: A journalist who claimed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was kicked out of his car by his wife will have to pay the couple 115,000 shekels ($32,500) fine in damages.

Igal Sarna who writes for Yediot Aharonot newspaper wrote on his Facebook page a year ago that an angry Sara Netanyahu had ordered the prime minister’s convoy to stop on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway in the middle of the night because she did not want him in the car any longer.

The Netanyahus filed a defamation suit last year against Sarna. They have demanded NIS 279,243 (USD 72,813) from him over his claims in the libel suit at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court.

Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge, Azaria Alcalay, said in his order that he agreed with the Netanyahus that “the publication was, at least partially, malicious and ugly”.

Sarna, stood by his claim, citing “reliable sources” including a member of the prime minister’s security detail. He said witnesses were afraid to testify in his defence because they are “afraid.”

Judge Azaria Alcalay ruled that the events as described by Sarna were not proven to have occurred. He also criticised the style of the Facebook posts, saying they were written in an “impassioned style meant to augment the tale and dramatise it while expressing contempt for the plaintiffs.”

However, the judge ruled that the posts were not libel in its most extreme form.

Sarna said he is going to appeal against it. “This kind of verdict is expected in these dark days. But it is only the beginning of the struggle against the attempt to silence.” He said.