Analysis: Katsav risks all for his perception of self-respect

No one would have predicted Katsav would change his mind, but in hindsight it's not all that surprising.

katsav court 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
katsav court 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Almost no one would have predicted that nine months after signing a plea bargain with the prosecution, former president Moshe Katsav would change his mind and reject it. And yet, with the advantage of hindsight, it is not all that surprising. For one thing, even after he signed the plea bargain, Katsav refused to express remorse for even the relatively minor crimes of which he was accused. His behavior was so obvious from the beginning that his critics have being accusing him ever since of being insincere and unwilling to admit his guilt. His lawyers, too, have all along played down the seriousness of the charges included in the plea bargain indictment. In a hearing in Jerusalem Magistrate's Court two days ago, they went so far as to state openly that they hoped to find material in the disputed evidence withheld from them by the prosecution that would prove that the charges in the plea bargain were mistaken. Only his closest aides, if even them, can know the workings of Katsav's mind. Is he deliberately lying about his conduct? Is he psychologically incapable of accepting responsibility for his actions? Or, does he genuinely believe he is innocent of the sexual crimes that eight different women who worked for him have accused him of committing? If the latter is true, does his sense of personal honor make it impossible for him to accept a plea bargain which, while forcing him to confess to very mild sexual misconduct, will more or less guarantee that he will not go to jail? Assuming that the state prosecution will file an indictment against him containing more serious allegations than the ones included in the plea bargain, Katsav will obviously be taking risks. He might be charged with - and convicted of - rape. He might spend years in jail. Nevertheless, from a subjective point of view, he apparently believes he has more to gain than to lose by taking the path he chose on Tuesday. From the moment at the beginning of the scandal when the public and media turned against him, the life has gone out of Katsav. At his famous television appearance in January 2007, all the bitterness he has nurtured but concealed spilled out into the open and has remained open ever since. He is totally obsessed by the affair. Journalist Nahum Barnea wrote recently, "I am told Katsav functions well but feels terrible. He is preoccupied with this trial and can't concentrate on anything else. He can't read or hold a conversation. 'I'm in the toilet,' he tells his friends." By rejecting the plea bargain, Katsav, in his own view, will be able to stand up against those who have allegedly tried to tear him down. He sees it as a chance to fight back and not passively and impotently succumb to the "conspiracy" against him, and that makes it worth taking the risk. It will restore him to life and even if he loses in the end, he will have the satisfaction of knowing he did not go down without a fight.