Former justice minister Yossi Beilin continued his unexpected defense of former president Moshe Katsav in radio interviews on Wednesday when he suggested that there are currently ministers and Knesset members who are also guilty of rape.Beilin said he heard rumors about Katsav before he was elected president, but that he also heard rumors about other politicians back then and current ministers and MKs. He defended a recommendation he made the night after press time on Channel 1 when he called for Katsav to be pardoned shortly after beginning serving a sentence for the rape conviction he received Thursday.“Justice has already been done,” Beilin said. “We Israelis don’t deserve the punishment of having a man who was president for seven years sitting in jail. I am not in favor of him, and therefore I can recommend a proposal that I think is the right thing. Let him enter jail, so he can experience being a prisoner and then after that give him a pardon.”Beilin said that Katsav would have to admit his crime and apologize to his victims as a condition for the pardon.Sources close to Katsav endorsed Beilin’s idea and said the fact that it came from someone far away from Katsav ideologically gave it credence.Deputy Negev and Galilee Development Minister Ayoub Kara (Likud) became the first MK to call for a pardon Wednesday.“We have to consider Israel’s image and how the country is perceived in the world,” Kara said. “Having a president in jail is collective punishment for all Israelis. We must defend the symbols of Israel and the president is one of them. That’s why I join Yossi Beilin in calling for a pardon for Moshe Katsav.”Former Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On and women’s lobby director-general Nurit Tzur reacted to Beilin’s suggestion with outrage.“With all due respect to Beilin’s proposal, Moshe Katsav is a citizen who committed a crime, and specifically because of his stature, he must set an example, receive a punishment, and serve his sentence like any other citizen who committed a crime.”Pardons in Israel are granted by joint decision of the president of the state and the minister of justice. Theoretically, it is the president who actually grants the pardon while the justice minister issues an “upholding order,” which is essentially an expression of agreement with the president’s decision.However, unless both the president’s approval and the justice minister’s agreement are forthcoming, there will be no pardon.A convicted criminal may submit a pardon request to either the president or the justice minister.Regardless of which one receives it, the matter will be referred to the justice ministry’s Pardons Department, which will examine the request in detail. It will look into the prisoner’s conduct in jail and consult with parole officers or psychologists who know the applicant and can submit professional opinions.The department will submit a recommendation as to whether to accept or reject the request to the president and the justice minister. The president may also use his own staff to examine the prisoner.Neither the president nor the minister is obliged to accept the Pardons Department recommendation.In practice, they usually do. In the vast majority of cases, the president and the minister also agree on whether or not to pardon the applicant.