Former president of Israel Moshe Katsav.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Just four months after it opposed reducing former president Moshe Katsav’s seven-year sentence for rape and sexual assault by a third, the Prisoner Rehabilitation Authority last week reversed itself. In a bizarre decision that acknowledged Katsav’s continuing failure to admit his crimes, let alone seek forgiveness from his victims, the authority last week recommended a course of home-based rehabilitation, to include religious counseling and refraining from defaming his victims.
Katsav had appealed the rejection of his early release, this time expressing a desire to undergo rehabilitation – but still insisting that he does not need rehabilitation for crimes he did not commit.
The authority’s about-face is striking, first of all for the implication that, under the custody of the Prisons Service for five years, VIP prisoner Katsav underwent no rehabilitation, despite his residence on the Torani religious ward.
Could it mean that, after five years’ incarceration, the former president has finally come to terms with his guilt and accepted responsibility for his crimes? Unfortunately, while the Prisoner Rehabilitation Authority apparently thinks so, there is no evidence of such a change of heart. In fact, its recommended home-based rehabilitation program includes regular meetings with a social worker and a psychologist, to rehabilitate Katsav sufficiently to reenter society – that’s the society whose norms he violated and of which he still considers himself a victim.
The Prisoner Rehabilitation Authority’s new recommendation will be brought before the parole board, which in April denied Katsav’s appeal for early release for reasons that have not changed. The board ruled that the rapist was “self-involved, thinks he’s a victim, and has no remorse.”
Since prisoners may petition the parole board only once every six months, the state attorney opposes the board’s consideration of Katsav’s new request before October. The state is not the only party opposed to Katsav’s early release.
“It was not my impression that a criminal who does not admit to his crimes and only smears his victims is fit for rehabilitation,” said Na’amat chairwoman Galia Wolloch.
The Women’s International Zionist Organization also protested the decision, saying “hundreds of thousands of sexual assault victims suffer all of their lives, without a third or even an hour reduced from the suffering they’ve been experiencing since they were raped. Katsav’s release would be a betrayal of the public trust in law enforcement.”
Orit Sulitzeanu, director of the Association for Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post that “it is inconceivable that a professional committee will change its recommendations by 180 degrees without any compelling justification... The question arises who stands behind this decision, who are the members of the public committee who so easily changed their professional opinion, thereby spitting in the face of Katsav’s victims? “Katsav committed serious sexual crimes and did this serially. He still shamelessly denies the offenses of which he was convicted. The rapist Katsav is a man without empathy for his victims and has never agreed to say the simple words: ‘Sorry, I was wrong,’” she said.
Odelia Carmon, one of Katsav’s rape victims, expressed anger and disbelief at his potential release on Army Radio.
“Suddenly they changed their minds? It interests me to know whom they bribed or what extraordinary political pressures they used that suddenly there is a special program for the prisoner Katsav.”
The parole board wrote: “In front of us is a prisoner who denies the crimes that he committed, who continues to claim his innocence, despite the court ruling in his matter, and continues to spend time trying to prove his innocence, as though there had been no legal process.”
It said Katsav “sees himself as a victim... and didn’t show regret and/or empathy for the victims of the crime, but once again noted the heavy price he has paid and is paying,” and speaks “obsessively” about his innocence.
Katsav was convicted in December 2010 of two counts of rape, one count of committing an indecent act using force, one count of committing an indecent act, two counts of sexual harassment, one count of harassing a witness, and one count of obstructing justice.
The next meeting of the parole board is in October, close enough to Yom Kippur for it to take into consideration whether Katsav’s first five years in a penitentiary have truly made him penitent. But only a public admission of guilt and sincere apology to his victims can justify his early release.