Katsav's pardon

In Katsav’s case, the former president seems to be not at all cognizant of the damage he caused to his victims. Indeed, he sees himself as the victim.

May 2, 2016 22:28
3 minute read.
Former president of Israel Moshe Katsav

Former president of Israel Moshe Katsav. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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President Reuven Rivlin has denied reports that he is leaning toward pardoning Moshe Katsav – and his moral position is to be commended.

Less than a month ago, the Israel Prisons Service parole board rejected the former president’s request for early release noting, “before us is a prisoner who denies that he committed the crimes, who continues to claim his innocence despite the court’s decision.”

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The board went on to note that Katsav could not be released early, since sexual offenders who do not express regret are not normally released. The rationale is that they remain a danger to society.

In Katsav’s case, the former president seems to be not at all cognizant of the damage he caused to his victims. Indeed, he sees himself as the victim.

This increases the chances that he will repeat his actions. It also increases the chances that Katsav will continue to harass his victims or even repeat his actions, even if biologically this might be difficult at the age of 70.

According to information leaked to the media after his 12-hour hearing before the parole board last month, Katsav attempted to argue that the rape crimes for which he was convicted were a “misunderstanding on the part of the women.”

His attorneys launched an attack against the women who were Katsav’s victims, deepening the anguish they must already feel.

One of the functions of incarceration – besides implementing retributive justice – is to remove from society individuals deemed to be dangerous.

It is a preventive use of force that aims to protect potential victims from future violence. It is not about the imprisoned person’s blameworthiness.

As long as Katsav continues to view himself as the victim and denies the pain he caused to others, he remains a danger and should remain in prison for the duration of his sentence – not as a punishment but as a preventive measure.

Admittedly, the rules governing the institution of pardon work differently than those that inform parole boards. Mercy, compassion and acts of grace are widely thought to be behind the decision to pardon. And in extreme cases this is undoubtedly a legitimate reason to grant a pardon.

For instance, a Holocaust survivor living in poverty who was imprisoned for failing to pay his debts is worthy of a pardon. This, by the way, was an actual case in which a pardon was granted.

Though equality before the law is an important principle, there are exceptions – and this is one of them. A Jewish state has an obligation to develop special sensitivity to the plight of Holocaust survivors.

Sometimes a pardon is issued after new evidence emerges and a retrial is not possible. In other cases, the criminal has undergone a transformation.

But the case of Katsav does not compare. It is unfortunate that the ex-president has suffered a deterioration in his psychological condition as a result of his incarceration. However, this is probably due – at least in part – to his unwillingness to admit to having erred instead of insisting on seeing himself as a victim. In any event, it does not justify his early release. Rather, he should receive psychological treatment inside prison.

Though the institution of pardon incorporates humanness and kindness, it must consider not only the feelings of the person sitting in prison but also the feelings of that person’s victims.

It is not too late for Katsav to embark on a process of healing and reconciliation with his victims.

Together they should mourn the suffering caused by Katsav’s misguided search to meet his need for sexual intimacy. But so long as Katsav chooses the tragic course of denial, he prevents a process of healing both for himself and for his victims.

In order to prevent further damage to his victims and to protect society from a convicted sex offender, Katsav should remain in prison for the full term of his prison sentence.

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