The Herzliya Magistrate's Court accepted Thursday a request by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to postpone the court hearings in Meni Naftali's defamation suit against close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In a letter written on Mandelblit's behalf by State Attorney Shai Nitzan, the attorney general asked the court to postpone the hearings in Naftali's case by 10 days, saying it could undermine the criminal legal proceedings against Mrs. Netanyahu and former PMO deputy director Ezra Saidoff.
Judge Gilad Hess decided to postpone the court hearings until February 15 due to the court's already busy schedule.
Naftali, who formerly worked as the chief caretaker in the Prime Minister's Residence, filed a half a million shekels lawsuit in February 2015 against the Netanyahu family's former spokesman Nir Hefetz, the prime minister's lawyer David Shimron, Mrs. Netanyahu's attorney Yossi Cohen, attorney Yaakov Borowski, and Shulamit Eshbol.
The attorney general asked to receive the pleadings in the case as well as the minutes of the court hearings so he could examine them and decide whether to submit an additional request to postpone proceedings.
"There is a strong connection between the facts in the criminal investigation and the facts coming to light in (Naftali's) suit," Nitzan wrote. "It is evident there is overlap between the matters being examined as part of the criminal investigation and those coming up as part of the lawsuit, and that the suit concerns the conduct at the Prime Minister's Residence during a period relevant to the criminal investigation."
The request also states that some of the defendants in Naftali's suit are expected to serve as prosecution witnesses in the case against Mrs. Netanyahu and Saidoff.
"It is possible that some of the witnesses in the civil legal suit will be required to provide their testimony in the criminal case as well, such as Saidoff," Nitzan wrote after Saidoff had already testified in Naftali's civil suit. "Hearing the testimony of these witnesses in the civil case—while they're expected in the future to be witnesses in the criminal case—raises concern the criminal judicial proceedings will be harmed."
Yossi Cohen, who is being sued by Naftali for slander and serves as Sara Netanyahu's lawyer in the criminal case, received a copy of the investigation materials in the criminal case ahead of a January 16 hearing for Mrs. Netanyahu.
"This only further demonstrates the concern there would be real harm caused to the criminal proceedings," the request notes.
During a hearing in Naftali's civil case on Tuesday, the former chief caretaker responded to questions from Cohen.
Naftali claimed he had to forge orders from high-end restaurants after Sara Netanyahu demanded him to do so. This, he said, was authorized by Saidoff. Saidoff, meanwhile, denied Naftali's claims.
Cohen tried to undermine Naftali's credibility, asking him about the public housing apartment he lives in, his studies, a suit he filed over a disability he has, and about a form he filled out when he was hired to work in the Prime Minister's Residence.