Katsav 301210 Tal Cohen 3
The judges in former President Moshe Katsav rape trial await the reading of the verdict at Tel Aviv District Court, December 30, 2010. Photo by Tal Cohen
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that former President Moshe Katsav's conviction of two counts of rape and sexual assault marked a "sad day for the State of Israel and its residents."

"Today the court conveyed two clear-cut messages, that all are equal before the law and that every woman has exclusive rights to her body," Netanyahu said.

Opposition leader and Kadima Chair Tzipi Livni echoed that remark, declaring the ruling carried an important message to woman victimized in such ways.

"A day in which an elected public official is convicted of rape is not an easy day for the State of Israel," said Livni. "The court's decision conveys a clear message with regard to public officials, but more importantly, it conveys a message to the victims."

Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch also said that the conviction represented "a hard day for the State of Israel."

"It is impossible to ignore the verdict that was given today," Beinisch told a swearing-in ceremony for new judges. "This is a sad day, but this is a day demonstrating more than anything what it means to be equal before the law."

"It is the responsibility of the society to support those who mustered the courage to come out after all these years," added Livni. "In these difficult times for Israeli society, the message should strengthen the weak in society: women and anyone who is victimized."

Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich, who served as a witness for the prosecution, said the verdict has "proven that there is equality before the law, and that the justice system does not discriminate between an ordinary defendant, and one who has power, wealth and connections."

State Prosecutor Moshe Lador said in response to the proceedings," This is a hard day for Israel, but these proceedings are proof that in Israel everyone is equal in the eyes of the law." He added that having authority "doesn't give you immunity."

Katsav was convicted of raping and sexually assaulting A., a former employee at the Tourism Ministry. He was also convicted of sexually harassing H. from the President's Residence, of sexually abusing and harassing L. from the President's Residence and of obstruction of justice.

The 65-year-old former president was acquitted on only one charge - that he allegedly harassed a witness.