Moshe Katsav
Former President Moshe Katsav arrives to hear the verdict in his rape trial at Tel Aviv District Court, December 30, 2010. Photo by Tal Cohen
Text size

Moshe Katsav shot himself in the foot twice in the last four and a half years.

First, he complained to the then attorney general about alleged blackmail by complainant A from the President’s Residence, breaking open his private closetful of skeletons to the public eye.

Second, he arrogantly rejected the improbably lenient plea bargain, fantastic for him, profoundly shameful for the State of Israel, and paved the way for his conviction on two counts of rape, a conviction that will probably send him to prison for years.

Katsav’s stupidity turned out yesterday to be the man’s greatest contribution to Israel in all his public life. If he hadn’t acted the way he did, we would be doomed to spend many more years in this esteemed gentleman’s company, and no one knows which office he would have reached out for next; at the peak of his popularity, he mulled the idea of running for prime minster, once his presidential term was complete.

The stomach turns at the thought: A rapist in a suit, a bully lying to his judges, a punk in the Prime Minister’s Office − begging the forgiveness of all the punks who never descended to the moral abyss of sex criminal Katsav.

The stomach churned and nausea rushed up the throat as the three judges read out their verdict. The man whose obscene escapades, blatant lies and criminal personality were being diligently spread out in sharp and clear judicial language had been a minister and the country’s president. Trumpets blared and flags unfurled when he entered a room. Prime ministers, ministers, judges, chiefs of staff and foreign leaders went to him as pilgrims to discuss key national issues.

In the summer of 2000, this sex offender had managed to win the presidency over the greatest statesman in Israel, Nobel Prize Laureate Shimon Peres, then a young lad of 77, for whom the job appears to have been made, though he reached it only seven years later.

History will judge the decades in which Moshe Katsav walked loftily among us, leaving in his wake a trail of young women, their bodies aching and their souls wounded, despaired and terrified. What an eclipse we lived in, what collective silence by people, journalists, politicians and officials, who would later say they heard and knew but didn’t speak out. Among the politicians, in particular, there was a forgiving nod and a wink: That’s our Katsav, reaching out to grab.

Here is a story published in this newspaper on July 14, 2006, a few days after Katsav’s original complaint to then-Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has been revealed: Six years earlier, in July 2000, when Katsav was elected but not yet sworn in as president, a senior Likud official acting for Katsav’s election learned that a major newspaper was going to publish a report on the president-elect, accusing him of sexually harassing one of his subordinates.

MK Ariel Sharon, then head of the opposition, phoned the paper’s editor-in-chief and asked the paper to get off the story. Sharon posed two winning arguments to the editor: The subordinate would not go to the police, so her testimony should not be seen as too credible, and a reserved, hesitant complaint cannot be allowed to bring about the expulsion of a president-elect. Sharon also told the editor to spare the people of Israel. A president [Ezer Weizman was facing a financial scandal] had just resigned. Did the newspaper want to traumatize the people of Israel once again?

Sharon’s charm and his close relationship with that editor did the trick. The story was shelved. Katsav infiltrated the President’s Residence in Jerusalem and went on doing what he did. Yesterday, a decade too late, justice was finally done.