Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife testified in court Tuesday morning, denying a journalist’s claim that Sara Netanyahu stopped the Israeli leader’s convoy on a highway and forced him out of the car.
The journalist, Yigal Sarna, called them to testify in the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court after the couple sued him for libel, requesting damages of about $76,000.
In a post on his Facebook page, Sarna hinted that that the first lady stopped the convoy while traveling on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway and forced her husband to get out. Sarna did not cite a source for his allegations, and his account never appeared in the newspaper for which he writes, Yedioth Ahronoth.
The Netanyahus claimed that the post hurt them in a “loathsome, cynical and wicked manner.”
Netanyahu tried to postpone his testimony, which has already been delayed for months, but Judge Azaria Alkilai insisted he appear to testify on Tuesday.
The court was packed with journalists and a curious crowd, and required heavier-than-usual security.
In his testimony, the prime minister said Sarna’s account was absurd. “Everything that Sarna said was a lie, it didn’t happen.”
He added, “Anyone who knows anything about motorcade security knows that something like that cannot happen.”
Netanyahu also claimed Sarna didn’t make any effort to verify the story or produce any evidence. Sarna argued that he did, and added that he couldn’t produce witnesses to corroborate the story because “people are refusing to come, they’re afraid.”
Netanyahu is facing two other investigations, one for allegedly accepting gifts worth hundreds of thousands of shekels from wealthy businessmen, including Israeli-American Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and others.
The second investigation revolves around allegations that Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes tried reaching a deal whereby the paper would take a more favorable stance toward the prime minister in exchange for the advancement of a bill that would force free newspaper Israel Hayom to contract or disband. Israel Hayom is seen as a pro-Netanyahu rival to Yedioth.
The investigations have cast a cloud over Netanyahu’s term, with voices in the Israeli political and public arena saying an indictment in either case could force him from power.