The plea bargain reached a year ago between then-president Moshe Katsav and Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz (since rejected by Katsav) regarding allegations of rape and sexual assault led to a sharp increase in requests for help received by the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, the association said Tuesday as it published its statistics for 2007. "There is a clear connection between Katsav's plea bargain with the attorney-general and the rise in calls we received during the same period," said the association's director Michal Rozin. "The deal reached between the state and the former president ignited anger and a sense of injustice among the public who called our center to air their feelings." During June-July 2007 - the plea bargain was signed on June 30, 2007 - there was a rise of between 24 percent and 34% over the same period in 2006 in the number of calls made to the association's rape centers. In June 2007, the association received 759 requests, up from 611 in June 2006; and in July 2007, 879 calls, as opposed to 655 in 2006. The overall figures for 2007 also showed an increase compared to 2006, with 40,518 calls to the rape crisis center last year, 8,729 being new requests for help. "Our statistics prove, once again, the deep necessity for our centers countrywide," Rozin said. "We provide victims of rape and sexual assault with an emergency hot line [1202 for women and 1203 for men], access to doctors, assistance during the criminal proceedings, support groups and workshops." Rozin believes that new government initiatives approved last month by the Knesset will also strengthen the association's activities and budget. In a meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on May 12, the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women announced a new government program for providing sexual assault victims with emergency assistance and rehabilitation services. Among the plans drafted by an interministerial committee is the establishment of three new centers for the victims. "Many times the government wants to create something new just to say that they did it, rather than strengthening the network that already exists," said Rozin. "We are the first step in this treatment process [for rape victims] and we want to continue to be the connection between those first calls and new centers." "I just hope that people will continue to utilize our services and see us as attentive and supportive. This battle against sexual violence is a fight for all of Israeli society," she said.