Pardon the president?

Katsav never underwent a process of rehabilitation and should, therefore, still be considered dangerous.

Former president of Israel Moshe Katsav (photo credit: REUTERS)
Former president of Israel Moshe Katsav
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The parole board is expected to decide Wednesday on former president Moshe Katsav’s request for early release from prison. Katsav has served two-thirds of a seven-year sentence for rape. Theoretically, he is eligible. But this is a privilege, not a right.
We urge the board to reject Katsav’s request for one simple reason: The former president has never taken responsibility for his actions, nor has he expressed regret. As a result, Katsav never underwent a process of rehabilitation and should, therefore, still be considered dangerous.
In addition, it is wrong to give early release from jail to a man convicted of two counts of rape; one count of committing an indecent act using force; one count of committing an indecent act; two counts of sexual harassment; one count of harassing a witness; and one count of obstructing justice. Early release to a convict for “good behavior” who never once expressed remorse or attempted to fix the damage done to his victims sends out a highly problematic message to society and, in particular, the women who were the object of Katsav’s violent acts.
In arguing against granting Katsav early release, we are not calling for special stringency out of consideration for Katsav’s unique position as the former president of the State of Israel. We believe Katsav should be treated like any other rapist, without favoritism or discrimination.
Equality before the law is upheld in our most foundation text, the Bible. In Leviticus 19:15, it is written: “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, thou shalt not respect the person of the poor nor honor the person of the mighty; but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor.”
Katsav’s high-ranking position should not have an impact on the parole board’s decision.
It’s educational to look at what might happen if a convicted rapist who wasn’t a public figure and who never underwent rehabilitation asked to be released early. According to Liat Klein, the legal adviser at the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, there is a strong tendency on the part of parole boards to reject requests when the convict has not undergone a process of rehabilitation.
“When a rapist does not undergo a process of rehabilitation he remains a danger to society,” she said.
“There is also the problematic message conveyed to the public that it is not so bad to rape.”
In February 2012, the High Court overturned a decision by an IDF parole board that agreed to grant early release to Tahar A’taf, an officer convicted of rape. The central argument put forward by Justices Eliezer Rivlin, Elyakim Rubinstein and Hanan Meltzer was that A’taf never expressed remorse for his actions and seemed to not be fully aware of the severity of the crimes he had committed.
Similarly, Katsav seems to not be cognizant of the damage he caused to his victims, which increases the chances that he will repeat his actions, even if, biologically, this might be difficult at the age of 70.
According to information leaked to the media from last week’s 12-hour hearing before the parole board, Katsav attempted to argue that the rape crimes for which he was convicted were a “misunderstanding on the part of the women.” His attorneys launched an attack against the women who were Katsav’s victims, deepening the anguish they must already feel.
Katsav could have embarked on a process of healing and reconciliation with his victims. He could have mourned the suffering he brought upon the women who were the subject of his misguided search to meet his need for intimacy. Instead, Katsav has chosen a tragic course of denial that prevents healing, both within himself and in the psyches of his victims.
Without any thought to the shame that Katsav brought on the country and the office of the president by crimes, in order to prevent further damage to his victims and to protect society from a convicted sex predator, Katsav should remain in prison for the full term of his prison sentence.