The first cracks appeared Thursday morning in the 'business as usual' front presented by Beit Hanassi when, after a fourth day of intensive police questioning, President Moshe Katsav announced that he will not attend next Thursday's inauguration of Justice Dorit Beinsh as President of the Supreme Court.
Over the past two days, a landslide of allegations against the president surfaced as an additional four women told police that Katsav had committed a range of offenses - from sexual harassment to forcible sexual contact - while they were in his employ.
The original complainant, "A", told police during a ten-hour interrogation Tuesday that on at least two occasions, the president had raped her while she worked in Beit Hanassi. A second woman also claimed that she had also fallen victim to Katsav during his tenure as president.
The other three testimonies that came to light over recent days all concern periods of time prior to Katsav's election as president. One complaint involves the period during which Katsav was Transportation Minister, and a second with the period between 1996-1999, when Katsav served as Tourism Minister. Police said that some of the allegations concern periods beyond the statute of limitations for the offenses.
Police said that the president's questioning would continue next week, on Wednesday.
In a statement released by Beit Hanassi on Thursday, Katsav stated that he sees himself as a scapegoat of the chain of events generated by his former secretary in the aftermath of his informing the legal authorities of an attempt to blackmail him. As he has throughout the investigation, which began in July, Katsav emphasized that he was cooperating with the police and replying to all their questions.
But even while protesting his innocence, Katsav announced Thursday that he would heed the advice given by retired Supreme Court Justice Mishael Cheshin and to absent himself from the ceremony at which Justice Dorit Beinisch will be inaugurated as President of the Supreme Court.
Last week, Cheshin suggested that the president should abstain from his formal duty of swearing-in incoming Supreme Court President Ruth Beinisch. "Perhaps he will be unwell on the day of the ceremony," said Cheshin.
Katsav will not feign a diplomatic illness, but in view of the controversy in which he is embroiled, he has chosen not to attend so that public attention will be focused on the new President of the Supreme Court rather than on the President of the State of Israel.
He also made the point that he had fulfilled his role as president from the day of his election and would continue to carry out all his duties in accordance with the law despite the difficult period that he and his family are undergoing.