In his first interview since signing a plea bargain agreement earlier this week, former president Moshe Katsav told Channel 2 news Tuesday he would honor the deal with the state as promised. However, Katsav could not bring himself to say in so many words that he would plead guilty to the charges in the indictment, and throughout the interview put the emphasis on what he described as the yearlong campaign of incitement and persecution that he had endured. Asked how he felt after the plea bargain was finalized, Katsav said, "An entire year of incitement, of persecution, an entire year in which I could not find even one second of calm, a year of continuous war to prove my innocence. A mob that has been incited, influenced by the headlines in the media, [and] by harsh and horrible leaks. And I intend to honor the promises I made to the attorney-general."
A's mum: How dare Katsav put on a kippah?!
Rubinstein: A-G's position needs urgent reform
Katsav spent most of his time discussing the false accusations and the campaign of incitement allegedly conducted against him. "We didn't force the plea bargain on anyone," he said. "The plea bargain erases more than 90 percent of the most severe charges against me, which turned out to be baseless. Ninety percent of allegations were thrown into the waste paper basket, but no one cares. This by itself testifies to the extent of the incitement campaign and the unbearable ease in which people can fabricate false stories and cause the destruction of a human being, of a family."
Katsav was clearly disturbed by Saturday night's demonstration at Kikar Rabin in Tel Aviv, when an estimated 20,000 protesters demanded that Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz scrap the plea bargain and charge the former president with the offenses in the original draft indictment, which included two counts of rape.
"All the protesters, all the attackers, has even one of them read the material gathered by the police?" Katsav asked. "Has anyone seen the evidence? Anyone who saw it, I can tell you that he would be shocked by it. Instead of forcing us to come up with explanations, the opposite happened. It provided us with answers - weapons and ammunition to refute the attacks and to disprove the accusations. The evidence speaks for itself."
The former head of state said "the demonstrators in the public square" must not decide who should be accused, what he should be accused of and what punishment should be handed down. "It is only under dark regimes that such things happen," he said.
Asked again what he would tell the court, if and when the indictment and plea bargain come before it, Katsav said, "I will honor the agreements reached between the State Prosecution and my lawyers, and will stand behind them. I will respond in court as I have promised to."
Katsav's wife, Gila, stood by his side throughout the interview, but did not speak.
Earlier Tuesday, Knesset Finance Committee Chairman Stas Meseznikov announced that he would not discuss canceling the benefits awaiting Katsav because he served as president, even though the parliament's legal department said he was authorized to do so.
Meseznikov said that he did not want to make a decision aimed at a particular individual and preferred that the Knesset pass legislation depriving all holders of high office who have been convicted on criminal charges of their benefits. There are several legislative initiatives to that effect already in the Knesset.
Katsav is eligible for an apartment, a car and driver, an office and two secretaries, paid for by the state for the rest of his life. The state will also pay for his bodyguard, his cell phone and his landline. The estimated value of these benefits is more than NIS 1 million per year. He will also be receiving a monthly pension of NIS 48,000.