Netanyahu - Reuters
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photo by Reuters
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The sentencing of former President Moshe Katsav to seven years in prison for rape garnered near universal praise from the country's leaders yesterday.

"This is an extraordinary day, a day of sadness and shame, but also a day of deep appreciation and pride for the Israeli justice system," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during an appearance at an economic conference in Jaffa. Netanyahu spoke just one hour after the sentence was handed down.

"The court issued a sharp and unequivocal ruling on a simple principle, that of equality before the law," Netanyahu said. "Nobody is above the law, not even a former president. All are subject to the law."

Katsav's successor, President Shimon Peres, said that the sentence did not harm the institution of the presidency.

"There is no institution of the presidency," Peres said. "There is a president who is chosen by the Knesset. In this instance, the institution itself is not on trial. There is a man who carries out his duties in the right way or the wrong way."

When asked if the bust of Katsav would be removed from the President's Residence, Peres said: "The legal processes have yet to conclude. Personally, I do not think it's right to rewrite history."

According to opposition leader Tzipi Livni, "A day on which the president of the State of Israel goes to jail because of rape is not a day of joy. The president needs to be above the people on the strength of his personality and standing as a symbol. But all this does not grant him immunity before the law."