The Tel Aviv District Court's decision yesterday was simultaneously self-evident and astounding. After studying all the facts and arguments, the judges arrived at a severe but justified sentence.
How seemingly simple. Truly self-evident. Isn't that the court's job?
But given the complex circumstances and the atmosphere surrounding the trial, one can certainly be astounded by this careful, responsible ruling, which took all the circumstances into account and even left an opening for an appeal.
On the legal level, the judges proved that they may be "only human," as the saying goes, but they are nevertheless capable of doing justice without prejudice, even when the media, the street, the defendant and his friends all try to tip the scales.
"Everyone is equal before the judge," wrote Judge George Karra in the ruling, quoting the late justice Haim Cohen.
The clear application of this principle in Moshe Katsav's case is no less significant, and perhaps even more so, than the judges' important statement that even though Katsav suffered greatly, the woman he raped suffered far more.
But in the public realm - where worrying social, cultural and political changes have occurred in recent years - it's doubtful that the court managed to have an impact. Granted, Judge Judith Shevach slammed the prosecution for playing the game of press conferences and leaks, as well as the media and Katsav's attorneys. Granted, Karra and Judge Miriam Sokolov rejected the claim that Katsav's fall from the heights to the depths justified leniency, even stating unequivocally that the former president exploited his lofty position to do evil.
And granted, all this sends a clear warning to civil servants to respect the dignity of every human being.
But before their very eyes, a drama played out that proves the norms they sought to bolster have long since been broken.
The moment the former president began screaming at the judges that they wronged him and let a lie win, he disgraced himself and the court, and exposed the public norms that have evidently guided him all his life.
Criminals often hurl accusations at their judges. But a man who, even after being convicted, still has influence over a large public, causes horrendous damage when he accuses the court of perpetuating a lie.
Retired Judge Edna Bekenstein put it well when she said it's terrible to see a former president brought so low. Justice was present in the courtroom yesterday. But dignity was absent.
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