The president's affair, like the presidential institution, has a symbolic factor. Unlike other corruption scandals hovering over Jerusalem, the Katsav affair is not in itself indicative of a system-wide moral collapse. Unlike the corruption affairs in the country's real power centers, the Katsav affair does not reflect a normative government gangrene. It consists only of sex offenses that a certain person is suspected of having committed in his office.
Although these are extremely grave offenses, we are dealing with a personal misdemeanor. Indeed, the law enforcement system's ability to deal with all this without bias reflects the power of Israeli democracy, not its weakness. Few countries in the world would have refrained from sweeping such an affair under the carpet. Israel's ability to treat its first citizen without bias should be a source of pride, not shame.
And yet, the shame is hard to bear. It is hard to bear the desecration of the nation's emblem. It is hard to bear the thought that the president of Israel allegedly physically assaulted several women, and that a few of them lived in fear due to the web of threats and temptations that His Excellency the President had woven around them.
It is also hard to tolerate the slander campaign the president's men conducted against his alleged victims, and the fact that until the last moment, the president used embarrassing delay and withdrawal tactics, using the President's Residence as a city of refuge. It is hard to accept that the man who is supposed to represent us is degrading himself, his station and the Jewish state.
So Katsav's disgrace is really our disgrace. When you add the president's affair to the prime minister's affair and the finance minister's affair and the Tax Authority officials' affair and the former justice minister's affair, it creates an entire mosaic of corruption. And that mosaic forms an image of the nadir of national values.
But from here on things may change. Perhaps the courage and resolve characterizing Menachem Mazuz's decision about Katsav will determine his decisions about the other affairs as well. If this is the case, if the police, state prosecutor and attorney general don't blink - we can expect a stable-cleaning operation the likes of which has not been seen here since the '70s.
The affair gathered momentum solely due to the courage of complainant A., the resolve of her lawyer, and MK Shelly Yachimovitch's firm support of her. The full scope and gravity of the affair were exposed only due to the media's pressure, the professional work of the investigators and attorneys, and the attorney general's integrity. If public figures and law enforcers had not done their work diligently, Katsav would have ended his term as state president serenely and majestically.
This could also be the fate of some of the other affairs now being queried. It is easy to whitewash corruption and intimidate witnesses, investigators and justice fighters. But society's real test is the side it takes: the side of those in power, or the side of the truth seekers; the side of the intimidators or of the stable cleaners.
The Katsav affair has proved that the Israeli immune system is still functioning and we can vomit the evil within. Only if the work is completed, and other corruption affairs are thoroughly and completely clarified, will we know that Israel is beginning to purify itself.
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