(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
After two days of grueling questioning, it was anything but a quiet weekend for President Moshe Katsav as Israel's number one citizen took to the airwaves to defend himself against allegations ranging from inappropriate conduct to rape.
In an interview on Israel Radio Saturday, the president discussed the allegations against him for the first time, emphasizing his innocence and blasting MKs and "the media" for what Katsav characterized as assuming his guilt.
"Members of the Israeli parliament are coming out with demands... to fire (me), to suspend (me). Again, we have to enable the police to at least complete the investigation," he said.
Police are investigating claims by Katsav that one of his former employees was attempting to blackmail him, and contradicting claims by the employee, known as A., that the president engaged in sexual contact with her while she worked at Beit Hanassi.
"Look at the headlines," Katsav said. "For the past month and a half, six weeks and even longer, there are daily insults, degradationsâ€¦. Nobody is standing up and saying 'Let's wait until the investigation is concluded.
"It is inconceivable that the legislative authority takes it upon itself to sit in judgement before the courts make a decision."
But Katsav's harshest criticism was reserved for Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich who appeared on national television Thursday to declare that she had met with the Katsav's former employee and felt "a deep sense of sympathy" for the woman whom she repeatedly described as "helpless."
"Mrs. Yacimovich decided that it is enough to hear one side's version. It's inconceivable that you convict a man before his trial, and certainly not before the investigation. If she does not have faith in the legal authorities, she should focus her criticism on the legal authorities, but if she does believe in them, she should allow the legal authorities, the police and the district attorneys, to at least complete the investigation," the president said in response to Yacimovich's comments.
Yacimovich, Katsav said, was "trying to do [Supreme Court Justice] Aharon Barak's, [Attorney-General] Mehahem Mazuz's and [Israel Police Chief Insp.-Gen.] Moshe Karadi's job." During the interview, the president also proclaimed his innocence, saying "all of the accusations, all of the allegations, are baseless. This is simply a blood libel. Such things never occurred, it is all lies and falsehoods."
An additional dimension was added to the headline-grabbing scandal on Friday, as A.'s attorney, Kinneret Barshi, reported that someone had entered her apartment, leaving no signs, and stolen A.'s bag with documents relating to the case.
Police said Saturday that they were investigating three possible scenarios regarding Barshi's complaint of the theft: whether the items were stolen by a drug addict, by someone close to the president, or whether the burglary was staged as a publicity ploy.
Police recovered the purse in the street, not far from Barshi's north Tel Aviv apartment. According to police the only item missing was A.'s wallet, but Barshi said that she had left her own wallet in plain view on a table and the burglars had not taken it.
Karadi and Mazuz are expected to discuss the case in the coming week. Police have already suggested that Katsav will undergo further questioning at a later date.