Former Israeli president Moshe Katsav walks towards the entrance to Maasiyahu prison in Ramle, near Tel Aviv, December 7, 2011.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Lawmakers, both from the coalition and the opposition, praised the decision not to grant former president Moshe Katsav early release from his seven-year rape sentence on Wednesday.
Katsav has served five years of his term for rape and other sex-related offenses following his conviction in December 2010.
Zionist Union faction chairwoman Merav Michaeli said the decision shows the parole board is standing with the victims.
“A rapist who refuses to take responsibility for his actions does not deserve a shortened sentence,” she stated.
“Any other decision by the [parole] board would betray the public’s trust and abandon the former president’s victims,” Michaeli said. “I am not happy about Katsav’s misfortune, but with all due respect to his good behavior in prison, he does not deserve a prize.” MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union) said the decision not to grant Katsav parole sends a message to victims of sexual assault and gives them strength to bring the truth to light.
In addition, she said “the message of equality before the law is important in of itself, and everyone knows that most sex offenders do not get privileges if they do not recognize the severity of their actions and did not receive rehabilitative therapy.”
Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women and Gender Equality chairwoman Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) said the decision shows “the judiciary will not underestimate crimes against women, especially when the criminal is a senior public figure.
“No committee can cancel a third of the pain of the women Katsav hurt,” she said. “Katsav did not express regret for his actions, did not internalize their severity, and did not undergo rehabilitation and does not even admit his guilt. Even worse, he is trying to continue using his connections to avoid taking any responsibility, and wants a prize for it.”
MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), who led the committee in the last Knesset, commended the decision as an expression of “the progress we made as a society in the long and continuing battle against sexual harassment and rape.”
Meretz MKs Zehava Gal-On, Michal Rozin and Tamar Zandberg released a joint statement saying that the public interest has won, adding that anyone who sullied the institution of the presidency should take full responsibility.
In the coalition, Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman Shuli Moalem-Refaeli also pointed out that Katsav has not admitted his guilt, adding that he even harassed the women who complained about him, and said he does not deserve parole.
“The court made its decision, and there are no shortcuts. Furthermore, Katsav has entered prison as a public figure and the decision makes a clear public statement: Public figures are not above the law,” she said.
MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu) said that, as president, Katsav was supposed to set an example to the public, and called his lack of regret “shameful.”
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked refused to comment.
Orit Sulitzeanu, director of the Association for Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, said the parole board decision was “right and sensitive.”
“Katsav struck a fatal blow to many women, took advantage of his position and caused them lifelong damage. To this day he has not repented, confessed or apologized, and he continues to discredit the women who he has hurt,” she said.
“As such, Katsav continues to be dangerous. Ignoring and alienating himself from the damage done conveys a terrifying message to the victims, and points to his ability to continue to harm in the future,” she added.
Sulitzeanu said that the fact that the former president still sees himself as a victim was “absurd” and that it shows he needs to spend time in prison to “hold himself accountable for the seriousness of his actions.”
She said that the decision delivers a message to the victims of sexual assault and rape: “The law enforcement system sees you.
The system made an unequivocal clarification – a rapist who did not express regret and did not undergo a significant and long rehabilitation process cannot receive benefits in the form of early release.”