Seven years too long for Katsav

Am I possibly the only woman in Israel, apart from members of former president Moshe Katsav’s family, to still believe in his innocence?

Katsav (photo credit: Mor Aloni)
(photo credit: Mor Aloni)
Am I possibly the only woman in Israel, apart from members of former president Moshe Katsav’s family, to still believe in his innocence? I am pleased that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal with an expanded panel of judges. Katsav was effectively tried, found guilty and sentenced by the media and various feminist organizations, making it difficult for any judge to ignore popular opinion. With an expanded panel and after the passage of time maybe preconceived notions will be set aside.
Had the trial taken place in a country such as the England or the United States, both of which have trials by jury, I am sure there would have been reasonable doubt, enabling an verdict in his favor. However, it has been said that the jury system would never work in Israel as it would be impossible to find 12 people without any connection, however tenuous, to either the defendant or the plaintiff. By the same token that the jury system would not work because everyone in Israel knows everyone else’s business.
But if that’s true, how could it be that only after the first leaks came out in the press did the rumors start on their pernicious round? It seems to have been forgotten that the whole affair started when Katsav turned to the attorney-general for assistance as he was being threatened with blackmail. Blackmail is a serious offense, but no one has been investigated in connection with the threat against the former president, nor has anyone investigated the leaks to the media which must surely involve a breach of client-lawyer privilege.
The fact that Moshe Katsav defeated Shimon Peres for the presidency by a majority of the Knesset, in a secret vote, speaks for the fact that a majority of MKs certainly did not suspect that Katsav was a sexual predator with history that was likely to be exposed and become a severe embarrassment to the state.
Since being sentenced, Moshe Katsav has been pilloried anew in the media because he refuses to admit his guilt. But why should he if, as he claims, he is innocent? Because of the media turmoil surrounding his case and the incredibly vitriolic reaction of various women’s groups, any panel of judges that had had the gall to find Katsav innocent would have faced the charge that they had only acquitted him because the defendant was a former president.
THE VERDICT, and the harsh seven-year prison sentence is said to be a deterrent against other men in power taking advantage of their positions to extort sexual favors from female employees. It could also have a mirror effect, however, giving charter to any aggrieved staff member or jilted lover to use blackmail by claiming rape. It could lead a good many men in high office to decide to pay up, whether in financial terms or in terms of influence.
This, in the case of government or law enforcement officials, could prove a real threat to democracy.
The women involved in the Katsav case were not accosted in some dark alley and threatened at knife-point. They are hardly shrinking violets, and in spite of their anonymity they have managed to be extremely vociferous in telling their experiences.
Of course I am not privy to the evidence the court heard that led them to believe the complainants against the testimony of the defendant, but the sordid details they were quick to reveal to the media seem highly suspect and dubious.
Women’s advocacy groups have dismissed the fact that the supposed victims waited some years before complaining, or that one victim claimed to have been raped twice, by saying that the women were so traumatized that it took a long time before they could bring themselves to come forward. They claim to have been powerless to protest or complain at the time of the alleged incidents because Katsav was their boss.
But there were always other avenues of complaint open to them. Surely, they had access to other government ministers and women MKs. The women now baying for the former president’s blood should stop and ask themselves how they would have reacted in the same situation. That the women involved did not complain at the time or shortly after should raise some doubts and questions.
Moshe Katsav is a broken man who certainly poses no threat to society. He served the state as president nobly and well, with never a hint of any impropriety. A seven-year sentence is unwarranted, completely disproportionate and could be seen as vengeful pandering to manipulated public opinion.
The writer made aliya in 1979 from the UK. She is a retired office administrator who has lived in Jerusalem for the past 21 years.