For all their disagreements, Israel’s politicians were in near-consensus Tuesday
when asked to respond to the sentence placed on former president Moshe Katsav:
All agreed that having a former president sent to jail was shameful, but that
the courage to do so spoke to the strength of Israel’s democracy.
is an extraordinary day in the State of Israel. This is a day of sadness and
shame, but it is also a day of deep appreciation and pride for the Israeli
justice system,” said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.RELATED:
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Moshe Katsav convicted of rape, faces long jail term
issued a sharp and unequivocal ruling on a simple principle, that of equality
before the law. Nobody is above the law, not even a former president; all
are subject to the law,” he said. “Therefore, it would be worth remembering
sometimes that when we look around us and see how different our state is – a
bastion of democracy, human rights and individual rights, and a bastion of the
rule of law.”
In a similar vein, President Shimon Peres said that “today
is a sad day for everyone. However, it illustrates that in the State of
Israel, no one is above the law, and everyone is equal before the
Asked if he thought Katsav’s statue should be removed from the
garden at Beit Hanassi in Jerusalem, Peres said that it was not necessary to
reject the past.
“The legal process has not yet ended, but I do not think
that we need to change history,” Peres said. “This is not Russia, and we do not
need to change the past for the good and bad.”
Peres said the conviction
and sentencing of Katsav did not have a direct impact on the presidential
institution in Israel.
“There is no such thing as a presidential
institution. There is a president,” he said.
Tzipi Livni, meanwhile, stated that “a day in which a president of Israel goes
to jail for rape is not a happy day.”
She declared that “we cannot take
away his presidency after the fact, but we can take away his freedom,” noting
that the president was meant to be above the people, with the strength of his
status as a symbol.
“Along with my distress, I have great hope that
Israel is in the process of repairing itself,” she added.
Arye Eldad (National Union) said that “the prison sentence placed on Katsav was
significant and commendable. The sentence is especially apt in light of the
recent unexplainable calls made to relieve him from a prison sentence altogether
or to pardon him immediately. These calls, which were expressed by a group of
rabbis, were unacceptable. They ignored the victims of the offenses. The
court should be commended for its just decision.”
Labor MK Shelly
Yacimovich, who said she knew the victims personally, told Army Radio that the
sentence was “harsh but fair.”
“I suppose that an ordinary rapist would
have received the same sentence, perhaps slightly more severe,” said
She rejected Katsav’s defense’s arguments that the media had
negatively influenced the trial.
“The person who created the violent
media debate and crossed all lines was Katsav himself, when he attacked victims
in the press,” she asserted.
A slightly different narrative was expressed
by Kadima MK Orit Zuaretz, a member of the Committee on the Status of Women, who
chose to attack those in Katsav’s circle who had known of the offenses but
failed to report them.
“All those who knew but were silent – journalists,
politicians and aides – roam among us and continue on with their lives. Today a
message was sent to them, too: The bonds of silence carry lingering guilt, and
we as a society must expunge the foul phenomenon,” said Zuaretz.