(photo credit: Channel 2)
Amid accusations of sexual improprieties and demands he suspend himself until the they are resolved, President Moshe Katsav administered the oath of office to new Supreme Court Deputy President Eliezer Rivlin on Thursday.
Many had tried to persuade Katsav not to preside over the ceremony, just as he took a leave of absence on September 14 when Dorit Beinisch was sworn in as the court's president.
Several MKs criticized Katsav's decision regarding the Rivlin ceremony, saying they failed to see the difference between the two swearings-in.
Katsav said several times prior to Beinisch's swearing-in that he had decided not to attend because he did not want to "rain on her parade." It was the most important day in her career, he said, and he did not want to overshadow by attending. The ceremony for Rivlin was a much more modest affair.
In addition, when he suspended himself for a day, Katsav said he intended to continue with all his presidential duties, and he has done so.
He led the Israel delegation to Kiev for the ceremonies Wednesday commemorating the 65th anniversary of the Nazi massacre at Babi Yar. Katsav asked Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko and Croatian President Stjepan Mesic to help secure the release of abducted IDF soldiers Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.
Meanwhile, Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik has snubbed the president by sending out invitations to the opening of the legislature's winter session that omitted the fact that the president is slated to be in attendance.
The reason given is that it is not certain at this stage whether he will or won't be present. But since Katsav has made it clear that he intends to continue to carry out all his duties, there is little likelihood that he will not attend, unless the snub goes beyond the omission of his name from the invitation and he is simply not invited.
Meanwhile, Beit Hanassi is going ahead with the traditional open house for Succot.
While Beinisch's swearing-in ceremony was a big public event at the Knesset, with live coverage on radio, television and the Internet, Rivlin's was very low key. Media representatives far outnumbered his immediate family and close colleagues.
At the ceremony, Katsav said that whenever an appointment is to be made to the Supreme Court, there is public debate as to whether the person selected should represent peripheral communities, academia or the practicing legal profession.
Rivlin, he said, filled all three qualifications. He worked for many years in the South; he practiced law; and he lectured at universities in Israel and abroad.
Moreover, said Katsav, he had heard that Rivlin was clever, wise, courageous and modest - attributes befitting a judge.
Beinisch said she had delivered more speeches in the two weeks since she became court president than in the preceding year. She therefore limited herself to congratulating Rivlin and to once again biding farewell to former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak. Rivlin's appointment, she said, marked the end of a series of replacements to the court.
Katsav, who often remains to chat with his guests, disappeared immediately after the ceremony - possibly to avoid the barrage of questions that reporters had on the tips of their tongues.
In a related development, a third transcript of a recorded meeting between Katsav and "Aleph" - the woman who is accusing the president of raping her - was released on Thursday. The new transcript was published Yediot Aharonot.
After the first transcript gave the impression that aleph was extorting the president, Aleph's associates apparently leaked another transcript to Channel 2 which suggested that Katsav was at fault.
The third transcript once again put the blame back on Aleph, a former secretary to the president.
Aleph arrived at the president's house on July 2. Their conversation lasted 45-minutes. After they began to talk in one room, the president, apparently wary of Aleph's intentions, asked to speak in his office, where he recorded the rest of their conversation.
The third transcript, as published in the Yediot report, follows:
President Katsav (speaking on his office telephone to his secretary) - Tell Aleph to come in (door opens, footsteps).
Aleph - Tell me whenâ€¦
Katsav - About the money?
Aleph - Yes, about the moneyâ€¦ I'm not supposed to be involved in theâ€¦ details, you have technical details - you want to call me in for another meeting, you want to send some information, go ahead, I can promise you - which I don't believe you'll do - that I'm done with this business as soon we arrange things. I can promise you that you won't hearâ€¦ that you won't have any worries with this thingâ€¦ I can keep the tapesâ€¦ I have enough, and if there's enough time you'll get the original - I don't need it.
Katsav - [unclear]
Aleph - First, we haven't agreed what and whyâ€¦ first think about it a littleâ€¦ I can't talk to you right nowâ€¦ I think that $200,000â€¦ that's nothing for youâ€¦ I can't talk now, I'm making myself sickâ€¦ I know youâ€¦
Katsav - What?
Aleph - About your deposits, banksâ€¦
Katsav - Abroad?
Aleph - Yes, there are things I know.
Katsav - $200,000?!
Aleph - I don't know, you have to think of it as a giftâ€¦ you'll have to decideâ€¦ with your friendsâ€¦ I promise you that moment I will destroy all the tapes I have.
Katsav - [unclear]
Aleph - I have no problem. Assuming we know what we want.
Katsav - Is somebody representing you?
Aleph - A lawyer? No, I've nothing to worry aboutâ€¦ I'm 30 years oldâ€¦ ahâ€¦ sorry, I saw someoneâ€¦ for a momentâ€¦ I don't want to talk to you about it now like this.
Katsav - $200,000?!
Aleph - I want to live a normal life, not with my parents all day taking care of them. I can't even buy an apartment, a 30-year-old woman.
Katsav - What are you trying to say?
Aleph - "Gimmel" canâ€¦ You tell me yes or no, black or white, on such and such day. The details are between you and meâ€¦ When I tell you it's finished it's finished. When I tell you I'm taping you and nobody else is involved it's 100%.