Netanyahu on Katsav verdict: A sad day for Israel

Livni decries "abuse, harassment" of rape victims; Barak says decision proves the strength of Israel's justice system.

netanyahu stinkeye 311 (photo credit: Haim Tzach)
netanyahu stinkeye 311
(photo credit: Haim Tzach)
Although many of former president Moshe Katsav's former comrades in the the Likud Party refrained from issuing statements in reacting to his conviction of two counts of rape, many politicians did speak out Thursday, with some calling to suspend privileges that Katsav enjoys due to his status as a former president.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu described Katsav's conviction as "a sad day for the State of Israel," but added that the Tel Aviv District Court had "sent two messages, loud and clear: That all men and women are equal under the law, and that women have full rights over their own bodies."
Setting a rare tone of bipartisan consensus, Opposition leader Tzipi Livni, reflected similar sentiments, saying that any day in which a public representative is found guilty of rape is not a simple day for the State of Israel."
Speaking at a conference at the University Center of Ariel, Livni said that the court's decision "sends a clear message in regards to public officials in Israel, but even more importantly, a message to victims - lately there's been a feeling that this is a state of women against men, but its not. It is a matter of victims and those who take advantage of them, harass them, rape them and exploit their weakness."
"The role of society is to support those who have the courage to speak out, after years and years," referring to 'Aleph,' who made her complaint against Katsav years after the event. “The message coming out of the court today will strengthen Israeli society," she continued, but emphasized "there's no joy involved for anyone" in the verdict.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that "this is a difficult and sad day for the State of Israel, a day in which our former president was convicted of such serious crimes."
"However, this is also a day in which our justice system proved again that everyone is equal before the law," Barak added. "The justice system is a central source of strength for Israeli democracy."
MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) went a step further, complaining that “one cannot accept a situation in which a president of the state who was convicted of serious sex offenses continues to enjoy the rights granted to former presidents, such as funds to operate a private office.”
Eldad threatened that “if there is a need to change the legislation to do what common sense should be able to deduct alone, then the Knesset will pass a specific law on the subject.”
Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog, whose office is charged with coordinating a national program to improve treatment for victims of rape and sexual assault, also welcomed Thursday's ruling. “This is an important decision for Israeli society, and specifically for women and victims of sexual assault. The Welfare Ministry supports victims of violence and sexual assault 365 days a year and I call upon any woman who feels that she has been harmed to gather the strength to not remain silent.”