What's important is to establish a set of norms about what is forgivable, and what is not.
By GREER FAY CASHMAN
Never has so much been written and reported about a president of the State of Israel as has been written and reported about Moshe Katsav. The irony is that Katsav, who craves publicity and is quite adept at manipulating the media, never in his wildest dreams imagined that he would receive coverage of such magnitude, and that his name and alleged misdeeds would penetrate the households of people in almost every country of the world.
Anyone who surfs the Net can see the global interest his case has aroused.
Now, regardless of whether he is guilty of coercing women who worked for him into having sex or not, his presidential career is over, and few in the merciless media are willing to be as fair as a young schoolboy shown on television last week when the Education Ministry decided to teach children the meaning of rape and sexual harassment.
Comments of preteens were recorded, and when it came to the turn of the boy, he said: "He may have done bad things, but he also did good things, and we shouldn't forget that."
It's also well to recall that few, if any, people in this world are squeaky clean. Nearly all of us have a blemish of one kind or another in our personal histories. Some of us have many blemishes, and indeed some of the candidates in the race for the ninth president of the State of Israel have had real and imaginary blemishes publicized in the media again and again and have succeeded in surviving the embarrassment and humiliation.
FOR MY PART, although she is not a candidate and may not be, it would be somehow fitting if Gila Katsav could take over where her husband leaves off.
For one thing, she has been at his side for much more than half their lifetimes. She knows what the job is all about, and she knows how to do it. What's more, the media, in its assault against her husband, has occasionally stopped to comment that it is pained on Gila's behalf because she doesn't deserve all this.
Obviously, Gila Katsav has made a good impression. No one has suggested that she may have done anything to raise a legal eyebrow.
After all, if Hillary Clinton can run for president, why not Gila Katsav? If this sounds facetious, it isn't meant as such.
Silent partners often know as much about a venture as those in the forefront, and there is no reason to suppose that she would be incapable of doing the job.
But whether it's Gila Katsav, or Shimon Peres, whom Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni prematurely declared in Davos to be the next president, or Colette Avital or Reuven Rivlin or Rabbi Yisrael Mayor Lau or any other person who cares to throw their hat into the ring, it is essential for The Basic Law, the President to be thoroughly examined and possibly amended before the next presidential election.
AFTER HAVING two successive presidents cloaked in disgrace, it is important to establish a set of rules or norms about what is permissible or forgivable and what is not, and not only with regard to the president of the state.
For instance, at least four, if not more, former prime ministers are guilty of marital infidelity. It could well be asked: If he cheats on his wife, will he cheat on his party? Will he cheat on his country? Similar questions could be put in relation to a potential president or any candidate for a ministerial position in the government.
What society may have turned a blind eye to in the past, it is not prepared to condone in the present, and may be even more stringent about in the future.
It would serve the national interest to introduce a system whereby candidates for high office were publicly questioned by a board that included representatives of the legal, financial and health sectors to establish that the candidate does not have a criminal past, has not been engaged in activities even mildly tainted with corruption, and is mentally and physically fit to the job.
Such a system might cause a number of highly competent but not exactly suitable people to drop out of the race right at the start - but in the final analysis we would have less corruption and less shame, which can only be to Israel's benefit.
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