Only once did Moshe Katsav, henceforth the appellant, jump up from his seat during the Supreme Court verdict reading. It was when Justice Salim Joubran said he had given a television interview. "I never interviewed for television," shouted Israel's eighth state president into the courtroom.
But Joubran continued reading the verdict on Katsav's appeal, pretending not to hear. Katsav did not respond to any of the harsh things said about him - that he had raped, harassed, hurt, humiliated. That he had pulled down a former employee's pants, had penetrated with his penis, that he had lied, exploited his authority and diverted the course of justice. Only the television issue made him jump as though bitten by a snake.
We shall never know whether he still doesn't understand what he has done, or is putting on a desperate show. One way or another, Katsav yesterday continued denying, in his silence, in his withdrawn posture, in his face that fell only at the end of the verdict reading. His revulsion toward the media is apparently equal to the revulsion of the women, his victims, toward him. The Supreme Court and most of the Israeli public yesterday shared this revulsion.
The smile on Katsav's face when he entered the courtroom was only erased when a journalist asked for his comment. Katsav shot him an unmistakably contemptuous look. In Katsav's dark world, he is the victim and the media is the abuser.
A line of knitted-skullcap wearers, his brothers and sons, separated us. Katsav sat two rows ahead of me, between us this patriarchal family, almost all men, with hard, rigid expressions. Katsav, the only one not wearing a skullcap in this family, also seemed like the most cordial one among them.
When he entered the room, a little before 9 A.M., the row of men rose in his honor, as though the president had entered the room. Katsav shook hands, hugged, spread smiles around. Like "before" and "after" diet ads, you should have seen his face an hour later, when he hurriedly left the room, the skullcap row protecting him with its body. Not a trace was left of the smiles - the face had abruptly gone gray. During most of the verdict reading Katsav's face gave away nothing of what he was feeling.
The three justices, Miriam Naor, Edna Arbel and Joubran, read the verdict summary in turn, as though taking part in a festive ceremony. But they read dryly, sometimes in hushed tones, not lifting their eyes. The judges spared the audience the unsavory details of the complete verdict, the ones about sticking in organs and pulling down pants. Only once did they mention that Katsav had wanted to "sniff the complainant's neck." But the verdict could not have been clearer, sharper and more unequivocal. We have had a sex-offender minister and a rapist president, a serial one, no less.
Suffice it to look at the full verdict to realize what happened at "the incident in Textile House," "the incident in the apartment" and "the incident in the hotel." What the complainant had to go through and the misery, in the darkness of those rooms, between Katsav's office and the hotel.
The justices answered all the defense's arguments, one by one, picking them apart. At the same time they blasted the attorney general and media (with which they were inexplicably harsh). But their ruling is a tribute to the Tel Aviv District Court, headed by Judge George Kara, whose verdict they upheld down to the last word. It is a tribute to the three prosecutors, Ronit Amiel, Nissim Merom and Naomi Granot, who saved the prosecution's currently precarious honor. The verdict restored the complainants' dignity and credibility. Above all, it is an impressive tribute to all the organizations and individuals (especially the female ones) who have changed women's status in Israel in recent years.
Those bastards changed the rules, unrecognizably. Once there were many Katsavs here. Now Katsav is going to prison for seven years. What was permissible in silence only half a generation ago is now explicitly forbidden, as it should be. We owe them our thanks.
"Moshe Katsav versus the State of Israel" was the ambiguous headline of yesterday's Supreme Court session. "Earthquake," "eclipse" and "deep sadness descends over Israel," said the verdict. The state's highest instance ruled against its former first citizen.
"Over and done with," were Joubran's final words, as befitting the end of an especially stormy drama. A burdensome distress then fell on the room, which is neither over nor done with.
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