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The U-turn that Attorney General Menachem Mazuz just executed on the public highway may be legal, but most Israelis now feel deceived. Not only did the prosecutorial car cut them off recklessly, it splattered them with mud. One does not expect such wild driving from representatives of the law.

Mazuz's statement yesterday recalled his miserable announcement in June 2004 that he was closing the Greek island case because the evidence did not suffice to indict then prime minister Ariel Sharon and his son, Gilad. This time, too, he presented a plethora of excuses, and this time, too, they failed to soften the severe blow to the public's sense of justice.

We wanted to know the truth, and we expected Mazuz to help the court discover it. Given the gravity of the case, that was the supreme public interest. Instead, we received a plea bargain whose absurd charges distort the truth and allow Katsav to continue claiming that he "never had sex with those women" - it was all "vile slander."

That justifies yesterday's broadcast of the complainant A.'s soul-baring monologue: It was the indictment of Katsav that Mazuz refrained from filing. Even those who saw the problems with her story were convinced of one truth: Rape or not, A. had a sexual relationship with her boss. But like many other truths in this ugly affair, that will not make it into the indictment either.

A case like this cannot end this way, with an anemic compromise in which the president confesses to a hug and kiss. Not after the parade of women who testified to his fixed pattern of behavior, after Mazuz's explicit declarations about the complainants' credibility, after Mazuz effectively convinced the public that its president was a rapist. No mumbo jumbo can bridge the gap between the Mazuz of late January ("the police and prosecution are convinced that the complainants' testimony is credible") and the Mazuz of late June ("there are considerable problems with the evidence that affect the chances of conviction").

What Mazuz spared Katsav in the indictment he tried to make up for in his public statement by stressing the severity of the charges that remain. But he declined to answer the obvious question: If so, why the lenient sentence? He also insisted that the deal served its purpose: Katsav will be convicted - of what is irrelevant - and be branded in the public's eyes as a sex offender. Really? Because of a hug and a kiss? The beaming faces of Katsav's attorneys suffice to prove what a joke that is.